There’s both an art and a science to making the perfect mixed drink — it’s not just the stiffness of the drink but also the flashiness of the pour. At the 2013 Barbot event last weekend, guests were treated to an evening of mechanical bartenders that put Brian Flanagan’s bottle-flipping skills to shame.
Barbot is an annual fundraising event produced by the Robotics Society of America, a non-profit organisation promoting “technology, education, and mathematics through the vehicle of robotics events,” the event’s director, Simone Davalos, told Gizmodo. The RSA has been in existence since 1978 and has produced a number of marquee events, including the Battle Bots TV show in the late 1990s. Though interest in watching a pair of mechanical gladiators beat on each other has waned, drinking remains as popular as ever.
Barbot grew out of a larger, older Austrian event known as Roboexotica, however, it’s quickly gaining in popularity. Last Friday and Saturday marked the 7th Barbot event held in the past six years. “We’re ramping them up into two a year because they’re really, really popular,” Davalos said, “Over the course of an evening we get between 1,500 and 2,000 people [and serve] 3000 cocktails.”
The event draws a number of local makers — everyone from former Battlebot world champions to IBM researchers to teams of undergrad engineering students. This year’s event drew more than a dozen presenters and their surprisingly diverse mechanizations. All of these machines are one of a kind, many of them built specifically for this show. While most of the robots were rooted to tables, a few traveled the exhibition hall offering drinks to passing patrons.
The level of interaction also greatly differed from machine to machine. Some simply required the push of a button, others organised their drink menus on digital touch screens, one even required you to dance in your order via a DDR-style floor mat.
For team Inertia Labs, maker of the Manhattan mixer, involvement with the RSA began nearly two decades ago. “We started as a team that competed in the Battle Bots TV show — before that it was Robot Wars [which was filmed on Treasure Island] — so we’ve all been doing this kind of home-built robot stuff since the mid ’90s,” Inertia Labs co-founder, Alexander Rose, told Gizmodo.
“One day, I saw a paint shaker in a hardware store and thought, ‘huh, nobody’s done a martini shaker robot’,” he continued, “so I started to build one. For the last event, we had one that made Manhattans — incorrectly — by shaking them.” As you can see from the video above, this year’s edition makes a Manhattan even James Bond himself would drink.