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June 15, 2008 by jjosh

Last night I went out in the rain to this event at the Eyebeam gallery in Chelsea. I’ve been to a couple of things there (Robot Talent Show!), and they do these Mixer events every now and then…we tried to go to one when AK was in town but we got there too late. That time, it was pretty much finished, but we could tell that something cool had definitely gone down — leaves all over the ground, and weird screens set up and so on. So last night I got there well in time, and it had bunch of different, interesting things…

First off, there was a stage with bands, DJ’s, etc. and 3 giant screens being VJ’d behind them…pretty cool, the visuals were amazing, but I wanted the music to be better…

In another room, they had a large inflatable pool filled with inky-black water. People would get into a bathing suit, stretch out on some kind of weird rack, and then get submerged into the pool. As this was happening, behind them on a giant screen, somehow a computer was tracking what their body looked like in the water. In realtime. It was really wild. Kind of like Minority Report, or as someone next to me remarked, "It’s a Hybrid!"

This low-fi cellphone movie doesn’t do it justice, and you can only just see the screen at the end, but here, check it:

I should also mention that it was $15 to get in, but then it was open bar(!!), which was nice. So the music was decent, the ink bath was wild, but really, in my mind the real money-maker, the thing that made it all worth it, was Boozbot.

A robot bartender!!!! I got in line and a guy next to me said "A robot bartender?" and for some reason I answered by saying "Finally." Because really, shouldn’t we have had this before? The experience was amazing. You got up to Boozbot and there was a list of drinks he could make (vodka straight, vodka tonic, vodka tonic and cran) next to a USB mic. You’d speak into the mic and Boozbot would chat with you for a bit. When he talked they had this small screen animating an 8-bit graphic-y mouth, and he spoke (naturally) though a metallic speech synthesizer.

There was obviously someone watching you through his camera eyes, ‘cuz Boozbot would talk about your appearance, and make conversation with you that wasn’t computer-based. After talking to him for a bit he’d make your drink by dispensing the quantities of ingredient through the plastic tubes at the end of his hand (see that in the pic)? It was so much fun.

Later in the evening, quite randomly, I ended up running into the guy who made Boozbot and having a conversation with him. He wasn’t geeky at all, more of a space-case type, and really friendly and cool. I was trying to ask about how much Boozbot could actually do on his own and —

"You mean how autonomous he is?" the guy cut me off.

"Right. How autonomous is he?"

"Well actually it would be illegal for him to be completely autonomous because to serve alcohol you need to be able to id people. So he’s only semi-autonomous. But damn I would love to see the cops arresting him for being completely autonomous!"

"Yeah, that would be a great court scene…Boozbot taking the stand…"

I then told him that I was going to borrow his idea and take it out to Burning Man, which he said was fine, so I’m stoked for that. I’ve already got some mods that I think would make it a better experience, so now all I have to do is solve the engineering issue of regulated hydraulic pumps to make the drinks. I think my dad could probably help me out with that, so it’s on. But I can’t call him Boozbot ‘cuz that’d be downright stealing. And it’s too bad, ‘cuz what a perfect name. 

Maybe Robooze? Johnny 500 proof? Liquorbot? Drink-a-tron? Robartender?

Help me out people…

UPDATE – It should be pointed out that when I presumptuously speak of borrowing the idea of Boozbot, I am more speaking to the spirit of the idea, and not to that actual execution. I just read a fascinating blog entry on how Boozbot works, and I love the complexity of it, but it’s…how can I put this?…a bit out of my skill set. Only time will tell whether this is a project that comes to life…


  1. […] and essential retreat into nature, the stories that I have heard so far have been amazing. People really seem to enjoy talking to BoozBot, and the process of programming him has lead to all kinds of interesting questions and […]

  2. Jeff says:

    All of the software is open source, and I’m working on making a release that will make it easy for other people to implement, so if you do want to make some kind of bot for burning man, I can provide some assistance on the software side. I’d be interested in seeing what you come up with because we are currently working on the blueprints for BoozBot Alpha so we’re pretty open to new ideas.

  3. jjosh says:

    Hey thanks for the offer, I am a big fan of the open source, lemme tell you. I should offer full disclosure though and say that I’m honestly not much of a software guy…the “mods” I was thinking of were more in the line of designing el-wire into the body, or making the eyes psychedelic swirls, that kind of thing…but anyway I’ll let you know how it goes…

    viva la BoozBot!

  4. […] of it, but it’s…how can I put this?…a bit out of my […] Pingback by putting the j in jjosh » Blog Archive » Boozbot on June 17, 2008 7:47 […]

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