One of the many bars on Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas is called the Bionic Bar. It’s called that because the bartender is a pair of robots. Or at least robotic arms anyway. I really wanted to try the Bionic Bar because the robots looked something like a miniature version of a robot I used to run when I worked in a sheet metal shop. That one was much larger than a person and coordinated with a press brake to form bends into metal parts. The bright orange robot was built by a German company called Kuka that makes industrial robots who perform all sorts of tasks in different types of factories and can work in tandem with other machines. Unlike the bartending robots whose bases are stationary on the counter, the Kuka robot moved through its work area on a track in the floor.
Though the robots in the Bionic Bar resemble the industrial ones in that they are a robotic arm and are programmed to perform tasks, they are made specifically for the purpose of bartending by an Italian company called Makr Shakr who builds the entire bartending system (with German technology). Each robot has its own name, and the robots on different ships have different names. On Symphony of the Seas they are called Rock’Em and Sock’Em. On other ships they have names like Mix and Mingle or Shaken and Stirred.
The Bionic Bar is located on the Royal Promenade. When not at work mixing drinks the robots sit still on the counter. Upside down bottles of alcohol and mixer hang above them. They have quite an assortment on non-refrigerated things to choose from. When the robots finish mixing a drink they rather sloppily pour it into a plastic cup on the counter, then visit a cleaning station behind them before returning to their non-working pose.
The robots can make quite a variety of mixed drinks, but they do not have a blender nor do they make any frozen drinks. You can get those elsewhere on the ship from human bartenders. The cost is the same as for drinks at other onboard bars, including the automatically added gratuity. Perhaps they share that with their human helper who was standing off to the side to assist newbies with the ordering process. She probably had to clean up after them as well since they often spill some when they pour the finished drink into the cup, and of course somebody has to keep their supplies stocked.
To order you use a tablet in a stand on one corner of the bar. You can choose from a set menu or make up your own customized drink. It offered some standard drinks and some robot bar signature drinks on the set menus. Once you have chosen your drinks you pay with your Seapass (keycard) just like you would for anything else purchased onboard.
If there are other people ahead of you at the bar a screen will display a queue that says what drinks it is currently making and how long until your drink will be made. There wasn’t anyone else there when we got our drinks so it started making them as soon as it scanned my card. I was going to order 3, one for each sister, but after putting 2 in my cart it would not let me add a third so apparently more than 2 has to be a separate order since it can only make 2 at a time. The sisters could have ordered drinks on their own accounts of course, but offering to buy them drinks was the way I talked them into coming to the Bionic Bar with me as they did not have the same interest in the robots that I did. It can make 2 drinks per minute so even if there are a few people ahead of you the wait isn’t too long and watching it make other people’s drinks is pretty good entertainment while you wait. Since there wasn’t anyone else there it jumped right into making the two drinks before I even had the camera ready so we skipped the third drink and just shared.
The movements the robots make were programmed to simulate movements of a human dancer so they would look more graceful as they worked. Every move of the industrial robot I used to run had to be carefully programmed and though it was not mimicking anything human I really didn’t notice the movements of the bartending robots as being much different.
The robot bartenders did have a more humanistic appearance in that their working appendage had a couple discs that made it look as if they had eyes.
The robots gather the ingredients and then mix them according to whatever drink they are making. They can mix, muddle, stir, shake, or strain depending on what each individual drink calls for.
Once the drink is finished there’s a place to tap your SeaPass card at the end of a track in the bar, after which the drink slides forward on a track in the counter. I suppose tapping the card is to insure each drink goes to the person who ordered it.
We picked drinks from the robot signature menu and they were quite tasty. The bright blue one was called Avatar.