He won't water down your drink or yawn if you tell him your troubles. And he never needs tipping.
Scarab is a robot bartender, although "he" looks more like a cabinet wall unit than the anthropomorphic C3PO of Star Wars fame. The machine, built by Scarab Robotics Corp. of San Francisco, has a robot arm that swings a glass into place as liquor squirts from the right combination of 36 hidden bottles.
At the push of a computer key or the sound of a familiar voice, Scarab can make any one of hundreds of drinks. If your usual is scotch and water, you can program the machine to mix that drink when it hears your name. You can also program it to know that J&B is a brand of scotch and that J&B and Dewar's are different.
Scarab has its limitations. Even at $65,000 -- with all the extras -- it still can't perform all the tricks of a $30 blender. It can stir your martini, but if you want it shaken -- James Bond's favorite -- the robot will just stare at you dumbfounded. (The company says it is working on a blender attachment.)
Nonetheless, Scarab Robotics figures it can sell about 750 of the robots within the next five years to bars, restaurants, casinos, and well-heeled consumers. The robot could take the place of several assistant bartenders, the makers say. Since the machine is voice-activated, waitresses could call in orders on lightweight headsets and Scarab would have the drinks waiting for them.
R. K. Meyer Scarab's creator and president of Scarab Robotics, is quick to note that the robot isn't intended to replace bartenders, just to serve as their helpers. After all, some customers are bound to want pina coladas or plain conversation, neither of which Scarab is able to provide.
Still, robotic competition is bound to raise some hackles. "We're always interested in anything that can save us money, but not at the cost of offending our customers or the unions," says Phil Wechsler, director of public relations for Resorts International Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J.