Monsieur, an artificially intelligent robotic bartender, will take your orders and craft perfectly portioned cocktails to your liking—plus, he doesn't work for tips.
"As you get older, your tastes become more refined, and you quickly learn it's expensive to get a quality drink. I thought I could design a machine that could provide consistent-quality cocktails to anyone—not just people who can pay $9 a drink, or even $50 a drink," cofounder and CEO Barry Givens told Fast Company.
A commercial version of this robotic bartender launched earlier this month at TechCrunch Disrupt, giving restaurants, night clubs, bars, and other venues in-depth business and alcohol-consumption analytics for $295 a month (after a one-time $995 setup fee). Following its debut, inquiries for an in-home machine led the Atlanta-based company to unveil two consumer versions on Tuesday, at $1,499 and $2,699, via Kickstarter. "So many people have asked for it, so we accelerated our roadmap and are using Kickstarter as a platform," Givens said, noting the original plan was to debut these machines in the first half of 2014.
Monsieur integrates with an Android tablet that people interact with to learn about and order drinks. Carrying much of the same functionality, the smartphone app also displays a person's blood alcohol content based on gender and weight, and recommends users order a car with Uber or Taxi Magic after a certain number of drinks. "Electronics and computer science haven't been applied to drinking, which is one of our favorite pastimes," said Paul Judge, an investor and board member.
The higher-end Monsieur, which weighs about 40 pounds dry and measures 22-by-18-by-21 inches, has eight reservoirs for alcohol and mixers, enough to concoct 20 to 30 different types of cocktails. Measuring roughly half that size, the lower-end Monsieur Mini can hold four liquids, enough to produce a cocktail list with 10 to 12 drinks. The machines alert owners by email or text message when any of the tanks are running low, a feature especially handy for businesses, which can send these notes to an alcohol delivery service when it's time for a refill.
In addition to helping users discover drinks filtered by ingredients, taste, or type, Monsieur also uses artificial intelligence to craft drinks to users' habits. "It starts to learn your tastes, types of drinks you like, what time you like them, and it makes recommendations depending on those parameters," Givens said. For example: When your favorite sports team scores a goal, Monsieur might dispense celebratory shots. If an overworked reporter comes home at 9 p.m., it could make that cocktail a double. If Monsieur, which is connected to Wi-Fi, notices a new device on the network, it could make two drinks instead of one. The machine also comes preloaded with 12 theme packages, such as tiki bar and Irish pub, each with a list of about 25 drinks.
Though consumers can adjust the strength of drinks from lightweight to boss (the latter is far more popular in a pilot with three Atlanta businesses), Givens said the company decided against giving people too much control. "We offered consumers the ability to make their own drinks, but we find most consumers don't know how to make cocktails," he said. "That moved us toward themed packages. We're giving you the recipes so you're getting quality." That being said, bartenders can input their own recipes in the commercial version and consumers can also change the ingredients' proportions when ordering drinks.
Still, isn't there something to be said about the art of mixology? "There are certain drinks where you need to flambé the liquor and you need the leaf from a special mountain and glacial ice, so there are certain things we can't make," Judge said. "What we found is bartenders and mixologists like Monsieur because it allows them to focus on the edge cases for drinks and use Monsieur for 80% of everything else."
[Images: Alice Truong]