One of the weak links in re-opening restaurants is the need for close human interaction between waitstaff and customers. But now a South Korean company has a plan. Will robots replace servers? They think so.
Recently KT Corporation South Korea’s largest telecommunications company, introduced a smart robot food server, powered by its Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other latest technologies, at a Seoul franchise of Mad for Garlic, a major nationwide restaurant chain.
The AI robot server, is equipped with state-of-the-art software that features 3D spatial mapping and self-driving. The programming, developed by KT’s Institute of Convergence Technology, enables the smart robot to maneuver between and around tables and chairs to serve customers ordering food at the restaurant.
Korea’s leading telecom company is developing various future AI robots as part of efforts to transform itself into the world’s No. 1 ICT platform company after new CEO Ku Hyeon-Mo took office in March this year. It pioneered a new era in smart hospitality by offering AI-assisted room services at Novotel Ambassador Seoul Dongdaemun Hotels & Residences, owned by its subsidiary, KT Real Estate Inc., in 2018.
“KT is bringing AI closer to the lives of our customers with the release of its first hotel robots last year, second-generation hotel robots this year, and now a new AI serving robot developed for the food and beverage business area,” said Kim Chae-Hee, head of KT’s AI/Big Data business division. “We will continue to contribute to improving their quality of life with our advanced AI and Big Data technologies.”
KT and MFG Korea, the parent of the Italian bistro chain, expect food-serving robots will be a welcome way to reduce person-to-person contact amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The robots also would help give restaurant employees more time to tend to specific customer needs, boosting their efficiency and productivity.
The AI robot server is 1.25 meters tall, 50 centimeters wide and battery powered. The design emphasizes stability as the robot moves at up to 1.5 meters per second carrying four fully loaded trays and little vibration when stopping to prevent spills.
MFG Korea is expected to develop various customer scenarios during the pilot service and study the possibility of nationwide deployment of the next AI-equipped restaurant robot that KT is developing.
KT introduced its commercial 5G network service through an AI-equipped robot named Lota in December 2018 before launching the world’s first nationwide 5G network in March 2019. It is also deploying autonomous carts using 5G connectivity at its smartphone warehouses starting May.
KT began to commercialize its AI robotics segment with its GiGA Genie Hotel service robots in December 2019. A second-generation GiGA Genie Hotel with enhanced capabilities and functions went into service in April this year.
GiGA Genie Hotel is a multi-functional, voice-recognizing infotainment system capable of smart room controls and delivery of toiletries and other supplies. It is a customization of GiGA Genie, the world’s first AI-powered smart home media hub developed by KT.
The second-generation GiGA Genie Hotel, dubbed “N Bot,” is an upgrade in design and function. The AI robot can operate in both Korean and English for items such as towels and bottled water and get on and off elevators on its own for room deliveries. Other languages, including Chinese and Japanese, will be added.