Makr Shakr was an installation at Google I/O conference that used robotic barmen to mix drinks in approximately one googol (that’s 10 to the power of 100) different crowd-sourced combinations. Conference attendees downloaded the Makr Shakr app on their handheld devices and mixed and selected ingredients as their own virtual barmen, then watched as the cocktails were crafted by three KUKA robots and delivered via conveyor belt. As the drinks were prepared, a digital display behind the bar showed the queue of drinks in the works, profiles of the users, and the precise mixture of ingredients in their drinks, as well as what cocktails and ingredients were trending across the crowd. Lucas was responsible for the technology and design integration between the numerous teams involved in the project while he was a technology director at SuperUber, along with the data visualization shown behind the robotic arms.
At the beginning there were a lot of limitations regarding resolution, interaction and movement that made the design look the way it did. Our job was focused on motion design and making the graphical assets come to life. The main inspiration is based on machine design and trying to integrate the animal-like behavior of robots into the viz’ language.
The main challenge in this project was the communication between so many elements and with so many people spread out throughout the world. There were people in New York, Rio, Boston, Milan, and Turino. They had Pentagram making the web app and feeding them the design elements; CIA was working with the robots and they needed to create a fluid way to send information to the robots; the drinks needed to be made in synch with the visualization, which was displayed behind the robots.
Imagine if every time you went to a bar your margarita always tasted the same. No surprise element created by the bartender? At the same time, since this machine, which can create infinite combinations, is preparing your drink, really interesting things could happen with crowd sourcing and social collaboration. Actual people could be responsible for this surprise element from now on. In a sense, everyone becomes a bartender and the best drinks become the most popular and can be shared through social media and other instances.
The drinks made by the robots actually taste better, but they are standardized. You will always get the same exact amount, combination, and end mix. This may be better for some people, but for other it may be worse because it takes away the surprise element.
The most interesting part of this project is not the robots or the artificial intelligence. This is a crazy social experiment that defies the laws and traditions that have been established in bars and parties. It brings this environment into a total state of order and organized behavior. No more crazy lines or people fighting over who was there first, no more great looking girls that get to drink for free or get the bartender’s attention first, no more priority. I’m not saying that this is positive or negative, but it will definitely be interesting to see what type of new social norms and dynamics are created out of this experiment. How will people behave and adapt when robots serve us?
A partnership between:
MIT; SuperUber; Pentagram; Bacardi