judgment Day is upon us, only instead of a T-1000, Hanoi’s tech-induced apocalypse is beginning with a robot waiter called Mortar.
The robot is the newest employee at Robo Café and has been drawing in customers due to his charming pre-programmed voice clips, and his resemblance to something out of a 1960s sci-fi movie.
The robot’s creators, also the proprietors of Robo café, are Nguyen Quoc Phi, and electrical engineer Do Trung Thanh. As of yet the two display no visible connections to Skynet.
Rise of the Machines
While a trip out to Robo café in Hai Ba Trung District does provide some laughs, it has to be said that Mortar the robot might need some tweaking before taking on civilization.
“It looks like something my nephew could put together in his bathroom in 15 minutes,” notes our photographer.
Admittedly Mortar could do with a bit of a facelift. The robot is limited to serving in just one of three rooms in the café, following aluminum strips taped to the floor. His fellow human employees load up his tray and then use his iPad face to select a table for him to deliver to.
There is also the issue that Mortar moves rather slowly. Once the initial buzz of being greeted by a 130cm iPad wears off, you’re left feeling little more than pity for Mortar while he painstakingly moves across the floor, praying he doesn’t get blocked in by a chair leg.
“It’s just a tablet on a skateboard,” continues our photographer.
While Mortar does sort of remind you of a post-rehab Wall-E, you do have to hand it to his creators. The shell was made using 3D printing techniques, and he can say several phrases like “Boiling water, boiling water, give way to me, please!”
On top of that, he winks at you. Be careful when bringing a date to Robo café, Mortar might just out-charm you!
Onwards and Upwards
The original inspiration for Mortar came while Phi was on a trip to Japan, where he visited several cafés that utilize robot serving staff. Phi decided to create his own robot, and although the initial investment was high, Phi is confident that the boost in efficiency will tip the scales in his favour in the long run.
“I’m very keen on including robots in daily life, so I didn’t hesitate when investing,” says Phi. “This is also a novelty so I hope customers will be curious to visit the café.”
Phi and Thanh are looking to make improvements to Mortar, before hitting the drawing board and making more robot minions.
The niche is indeed paying off, and the café is being visited by reporters as well as being featured on national television. All the attention can only do good things for the unassuming little café south of the city centre.
Admittedly, we can’t help but find it all very exciting — robots serving you coffee, it’s like we’re finally stepping into the world that sci-fi culture envisaged fifty years ago.
Soon we’ll all be unemployed, living off universal basic income while robots take over the service industry. We at Word are particularly excited to be replaced by walking fax machines — finally we’ll have the time we’ve longed for to play with our hoverboards.
Whether or not Mortar starts a city-wide trend, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Robo café is located at 98 Lac Trung, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi.
PHOTOS BY MARCUS LACEY