Tech

A restaurant in Seoul replaced waiters with robots to cut COVID-19 risks

It can twirl and serve up to four tables at once.

Reuters

Servers across the world, have a seat; Aglio Kim wants your job. The AI-powered robot created by South Korean telecommunications company KT Corp has been working —er, operating in a Seoul restaurant for the past month, Reuters reports.

The Aglio Kim robot is meant to provide a safer dining experience while the coronavirus threat still looms. Robots have become invaluable tools during the pandemic from limiting cross-contamination in hospitals to disinfecting warehouses to barking out physical distancing guidelines.

How does it work? — If a trolley rack could move on its own, it’d be Aglio Kim. After customers select their order on a touchscreen at their table, the order will wheel out to them on one of the robot’s tray shelves. It uses visual SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to avoid obstacles and people.

An LCD screen and speaker doles out pleasantries, and KT Corp is hoping to release a model with voice recognition.

Aglio Kim can communicate in Korean and English. Reuters

Each tray can hold 30 kilograms worth of food (about 66 pounds). The robot can serve up to four tables in one go, but considering the patrons have to remove the dishes themselves, it seems to protect staff more than it would customers. Still, Lee Young-ho, a manager at the Mad for Garlic restaurant where the robot is performing its trial run reports a positive reception. Young-ho told Reuters: “Customers found the robot serving quite unique and interesting, and also felt safe from the coronavirus.”

While South Korea was initially a COVID-19 hot spot, it’s led the world in its thoughtful and aggressive responses to the pandemic. Starting Monday, Seoul restaurants will be allowed to open later than 9 p.m. with the physical distancing of patrons. KT hopes to supply more robots to the city in the coming months.