*Cover photo for illustration purposes only — not the actual robot at the outlet.
If you told me 20+ years ago that we’d be living the sci-fi dream today, I would probably have laughed in your face. After all, I grew up in the 1990s—the days of Web 1.0, when mobile phones were clunky behemoths the size of 1.5L water bottles, and giant, digital billboards selling capitalism only existed in dystopian landscapes ala Blade Runner.
But fast forward to 2022, and this ‘sci-fi’ tech is now an indispensable part of our lives, permeating almost every aspect of modern life. We communicate through screens with people who live thousands of miles away, we make calls through fancy little watches that also monitor our vitals, we scroll through online catalogues and make cashless payments to have things delivered right to our doorstep, and the very same ‘dystopian’ digital billboards in films are now ubiquitous in major cities.
Despite being a millennial, I am not particular tech savvy—so whenever I ‘discover’ cool new tech in the course of everyday life, I often display a degree of fascination that other people often find funny. Just earlier today, my husband told me about how to use Google Lens to search products up on the internet—and I was amazed because I had never used it before lol.
The same happened when we went for lunch at BBQ Plaza at IOI Mall Puchong recently. After placing our orders via QR code, what looked like a moving shelf with a smiling face on a screen approached our table. Cue exclamation of surprise and me trying to contain my excitement, “wow they have robot servers!” — to which patrons at the table next to ours noticeably stared at what they must have thought to be the village idiot.
Robot servers are, of course, nothing new. Popular restaurant chain Nam Heong made headlines for their robot servers in 2018 (complete with a humanoid design, wearing a red skirt), and Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar also implemented something similar to reduce contact during the pandemic.
But it was my first time seeing one in the flesh (pardon the pun) —and I have to say, it’s pretty darn cute. The smiley face gives it a human touch and a programmed voice thanks patrons when you take your food from the shelves. I also find it fascinating how the thing could make turns within the confined space, and detect objects/people in the way.
Of course, these robot servers are the most basic models — essentially just moving shelves with an AI programme — but with how fast tech is progressing these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost of producing robots like the ones from Boston Dynamics (which has slicker dance moves than me, by the way!) will go low enough for them to be used in commercial services. (Of course, with a lot of things being automated these days, it could spell disaster for certain jobs — but that’s another conversation altogether).
With how tech is progressing, a future where humans become like those featured in Disney’s Wall-E — where they don’t even have to lift a finger and are fed by machines — may not be too far-fetched a possibility.
But it is not this day. We may be served by robots, but food cooked ourselves on the grill still tastes the best.
BAR B Q PLAZA
Lot FS09- FS11, 1st Floor, IOI Mall Puchong, Jalan Puchong, Bandar Puchong Jaya, 47100 Puchong, Selangor
Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM