Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Michael Harper reports that researchers at the Bielefeld University in Germany are working to develop a robotic bartender and their most difficult challenge so far is to identify the body language that is most commonly used by customers and interpreted as someone wanting to buy a drink. A bartending robot has to be able to distinguish between customers intending to order, chatting with friends or just passing by — and do so in a very noisy environment. The researchers examined the behavior of customers in nightclubs to see which behaviors were most successful at indicating to the barman the customer was ready to be served. “Effectively, the customers identify themselves as ordering and non-ordering people through their behavior," says Dr Sebastian Loth, lead author of the study. The researchers analyzed 105 attempts to order drinks at nightclubs in Bielefeld and Herford in Germany and Edinburgh in Scotland and assessed the behavior of customers 35 seconds before they were served. They found the most successful tactic, which occurred in 95% of orders, was standing squarely towards the bar with head facing forward. Looking at money saw just seven per cent of customers being served within the 35 second time frame. The findings are used to produce an update to the robotic bartender’s programming to allow it to ask customers if they would like a drink when they display the right body language. What the research team has learned is being programmed into a robotic bartender called James, or Joint Action in Multimodal Embodied Systems. The researchers have been working on James since early 2011 and hope to have the project completed in January 2014.
Thus spake the master programmer:
"When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes."
-- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"