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Service with a smile

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Want to have a robot wait on you hand and foot and serve you sumptuous meals? Four youngsters are making this fantasy a reality.

Have you been to a restaurant and gotten your order mixed up? Or been served by a disgruntled waiter? To help people have a pleasant experience while ordering their favourite dishes, four students have developed India’s first food-serving robot — Butler ‘O’ Bistro or BOB.

Anish (12), Arjun (13), Srivatsan (13) and Varsha (20) met through an online robotics community created by Chennai-based Kidobotikz and decided to build the robot after much brainstorming. It took the team about three months to complete their project. BOB is equipped with infra-red and ultrasonic sensors that help it navigate.

“Currently, BOB can perform limited functions. The server places the food on BOB and directs him to a table. BOB follows a pre-determined route and reaches there by following a black line embedded on the floor using its IR sensors. After the food has been delivered, the customer presses a button and BOB goes back to the kitchen,” explains Anish, the youngest member of the team. The robot’s ultrasonic sensors help it determine the distance between itself and the people around it.

Human-like

“We have also given him facial expressions. We wanted BOB to look like a humanoid; otherwise, he would look like a box moving around,” says Varsha, adding, “He has a normal smiling face. When someone goes in front of him, he senses an obstacle and his facial expression changes. He smiles while delivering food, too.”

Talking about the challenges the team faced while building the robot, Anish, who helped with the design, mechanical and electronics aspect the robot, says, “Initially, BOB’s speed was too fast, due to which he used to wriggle and move out of his assigned path. So, we decreased the speed to help him move smoothly.”

BOB’s coding has been done by Arjun. “The code I have written is basic, which helps BOB trace a black line and reach his destination,” he explains.

The team has grand plans to improve BOB by adding more features. “I would like to add hands so that BOB can pick up the plate instead of the customers taking it off him,” says Arjun excitedly. “His battery currently lasts six hours. We are planning to increase that. We will also try to help BOB deliver food to different tables, on his own, without being dependent on the black line,” adds Anish.

Talking about BOB’s feature she liked the most, Varsha says, “I love his facial expressions and the way he introduces himself when he delivers food. He says, ‘Hi, I am BOB. Here’s your food, enjoy your day’.”

Until last week, BOB had been serving food to customers at the food court in VR Bengaluru mall. It has now been returned to Varsha.

Source:  The Hindu

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