Los Angeles-based entertainment makers Two Bit Circus have a mission of creating outlandish yet engaging projects, from high-tech rocking horse races to escape rooms to a dunk tank that envelopes the person inside with flames instead of water. For their annual Anti-Gala fundraiser this past November, they wanted a centerpiece worthy of their mission of fun, social, interactive technology. Their solution? Create a sleek robot bartender jukebox to make and serve tasty beverages for all the events’ guests.
With just three weeks to work, the team set out to build their drink-slinging droid. They crafted the bartender’s body using parts from surplus electronics shops around the LA environs, and animated it with powerful servos controlled by a Pololu Maestro board. They used a peristaltic system from Party Robotics to dispense alcohol and mixers into tumblers held by the robot, which it shakes and pours into a guest’s glass through a spigot. A custom system run on a Raspberry Pi offers four beverage options through oversized pushbuttons, plus a fifth button to pour the drink.
The finished automaton looks like it was taken straight out of George Jetson’s favorite happy hour lounge, largely in part to the mid-century encasement that houses it all. “We started off with a ‘Zoltar’ style cabinet, but decided that it wouldn’t fit with the much more contemporary-looking robot,” Two Bit Circus’ industrial designer Chris Weisbart writes. “Through years of collecting books on industrial and product design, I had one on the history of jukeboxes. The ‘aha!’ happened when we flipped through the book and found the AMI H from 1957, an astoundingly beautiful design that we felt we could adapt to our needs.”
The reception was a hit – “People went ape over the design,” Weisbart says, adding “We had a hard time filling the dispensing bottles because folks wanted to talk nonstop about it and kept pressing buttons as we were trying to refill the machine for drinks. The party was phenomenal and the bartender was mobbed all night long.”