A robot walks into a bar: would you order a pint from a robot?

You may have noticed that more and more stories about social robots have appeared over the last decade. During the Covid-19 pandemic, robots were applied in different areas to help people because they were safe and convenient. In hospitals, for example, Moxi, a social delivery robot, can deliver medication, supplies or lab samples. In nursing, a social robot can care for old people: for example, a robot called Pepper helped patients with dementia. We’ve even seen robots assist staff to deliver food in restaurants, such as Balla who is working in Dublin’s Senbazuru Izakaya.

Moreover, social robots can always attract the attention of children as they are less intimidating. Thus, it is beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorders to learn better. The social robot called QTrobot can help those children to engage in social interaction, reduce anxiety and disruptive behaviours. As a result, people gradually accept that robots are involved in their daily life and also enjoy the robots’ services and help.

In James Joyce’s classic novel Ulysses, he writes that a “good puzzle would be to cross Dublin without passing a pub”. This conundrum has fascinated the city’s literary visitors for years and pubs are a symbol of Ireland abroad. Indeed, going to the pub is still one of the top choices in many Irish people’s social life, while visiting pubs and enjoying the local pub atmosphere is also on the list for the most tourists.

But there are some problems with this popularity. A shortage of workers means the customer experience is not what it used to be, especially during peak pub hours. Many find they’re waiting a long time to get even just one drink and it can be hard to get menus or find a seat easily.

So what about a social robot working in Irish pubs? Imagine one greeting you with a typical Irish accent when you enter a pub. Would you be surprised? Would you like them to serve you? Research has showed that some people showed more interest if a robot works in the Irish pubs, whereas others prefer to socialise with human pub staff rather than a robot. Several people mentioned that they hope the robot can help them to get pints or cocktails more quickly.

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