Virtual Bartender Joins Florida International University as Teacher’s Aide
Virtual bartender Cecilia has joined Florida International University as a new teaching tool. Cecilia’s conversational AI and 3D avatar combination makes cocktails using the attached automated bar and will act as both teacher’s aide and student at FIU’s Bacardi Center of Excellence.
Cecilia’s animated avatar uses speech recognition and cameras to recognize when someone walks up and orders a drink by voice or through a touchscreen. The AI knows most standard cocktails and the robotic arms can pour up to 120 drinks an hour if its 70-liter storage has enough of the requested ingredients. The AI is programmed to converse with customers, suggest drinks, make jokes, and generally act like the classic stereotype of a human bartender. The machine comes with contactless payment methods and the AI collates and analyzes its interactions to determine what kinds of drinks are popular and other marketing data. Israel-based GKI Group’s Cecilia.ai brand launched the eponymous robotic bartender last year, with an updated version debuting last month at CES.
“[Bacardi and FIU] brought in Cecilia.ai as a new educational partner to expose the program students to a new world of hospitality innovations, branding, drinks management, and the combination of technology with mixology,” Cecilia.ai explained in a LinkedIn post. “During the launch event yesterday, Cecilia displayed her amazing mixology skills, using Bacardi’s products, to make some classic cocktails and new cocktails created by FIU’s Bartender’s Guild. She’s also impressed the reporters and the students with her sassy jokes, stupid puns, and her ability to serve clients automatically.”
Cecilia represents a very practical deployment of virtual beings rapidly rising in popularity. Cecilia’s physical service adds a new dimension to digital-only tools like Vocinity’s new custom enterprise conversational brand assistants. Improvements in synthetic voice and visuals over the last couple of years have led directly to more startup funding and contracts for startups like Hour One, Supertone, and DeepBrain. Virtual beings are popping up everywhere. YouTube star Taryn Southern’s virtual clone, the story-telling virtual William Shatner, Nestle Toll House’s virtual “cookie coach” Ruth, and Sber’s Russian television host. None of them can serve a drink, but there’s no reason to think Cecilia and its future rivals won’t be the new face of businesses needing an extra robotic hand and virtual face.
“As an educational partner, Cecilia encourages our students and future trade leaders to think out of the box in terms of added value service scenarios,” Bacardi Center of Excellence director Brian Connors said in a statement. “A machine can never replace human interaction, but this groundbreaking technology can offer a customizable and interactive solution when a human bartender is either not practical or possible. It also provides a critical teaching moment on customer preferences, branding possibilities, and contactless service alternatives.”