With a whir and a flash of lights, a robot whizzes to the restaurant table and takes a customer's order, while a second races to another table to deliver plates of steaming food.
This isn't a scene from a science fiction book. Rather, it's the daily routine at a new diner in a suburban Hong Kong shopping center.
Robot Kitchen opened in July to cash in on the city's love of gadgets, claiming to be the world's first eatery staffed by machines.
“We thought robots would be a good gimmick,” said Peter Chow, who built the robots working at the diner. At the moment the diner has just two robots — Robo Waiter 1 and 2 — neither of which looks like the human-like robots in the movies.
Robo Waiter 1 is a crudely designed box on wheels covered in shiny paper and with a light bulb to represent a head.
The computer inside can recognize voice patterns, take meal orders and send them to the cooks in the kitchen. A video camera detects objects in its way and guides the robot around them.
Robo Waiter 2 is much the same, but has a tray for carrying food.
Due to the robots' limited abilities, the restaurant has had to hire extra staff to help them out and do the actual cooking.
“They definitely aren't labor-saving devices,” said Chow.
Adding to the ambience, meals are given themed names in the menu — a ham and pineapple pizza, for instance, is called “Robot Energetic Pizza” — and the floor is strewn with toy robots that dance and sing or attack customers as they enter.
“It's like being in Star Wars,” said 10-year-old Joey Loh.(AFP)
1. gimmick n.
巧妙的裝置 (qiao3 miao4 de5 zhuang1 zhi4)
例: Stores that have some kind of gimmick are more likely to attract the attention of a customer.
2. crudely adv.
粗糙地 (cu1 zao4 di5)
例: I made a dress but it is very crudely put together.
3. device n.
設備 (she4 bei4)
例: I need a device that will help me find my keys!
4. ambience n.
格調 (ge2 diao4)
例: I lit candles to give our house a romantic ambience for my boyfriend's birthday.