[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Asian nation Nepal has been known for its soaring peaks and heritage site for a long time now. But the self-taught young innovators of the Himalayan nation intend to give it a makeover and in pursual of that have come with a robot – which is capable waiting tables at restaurants with the exact dexterity of a seasoned waiter.
“Please enjoy your meal,” says Nepal’s first robot waiter, Ginger, as she delivers a plate of steaming dumplings to a table of hungry customers.
Three ‘Gingers’ work at Naulo restaurant in the dusty capital Kathmandu, where pot-holed roads and crumbling buildings still bear the scars of a powerful earthquake that hit more than three years ago.
The selfie-star ‘Ginger’
- Naulo opened its doors four months ago and their robot waiters have been a big draw, attracting curious customers of all ages.
- Ginger, who is able to sense movement and obstacles, deftly navigates the crowded restaurant carrying trays laden with food. Customers order via a touchscreen menu fitted into the tables, and Ginger is called to the kitchen when dishes are ready.
- “It was a completely new experience,” said 73-year-old Shalikram Sharma, who was born before televisions were available in Nepal.
- Ginger has become quite a selfie-star and is often distracted from her work by children keen to get a photo with the sleek robot.
- “They look so good. I could not believe they were made in Nepal,” said Neelam Kumar Bimali, a diner enjoying an evening meal with his family.
- At present, a few human waiters help Ginger but an upgrade is in the works that should make Naulo entirely robot-run.
Local start-up shines
- Local start-up Paaila Technology built Ginger, a 1.5 metre (five-foot) tall robot, from scratch and programmed her to understand both English and Nepali.
- The bilingual humanoid robot — named Ginger after a common ingredient in Nepali cuisine — can even crack jokes like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.
- “This is our testing ground. We are fine-tuning it with responses from our customers,” Binay Raut, CEO of the company, told AFP.
- The team of 25 young engineers — Raut is the oldest at 27 — worked for months to build the robot, welding and moulding the prototype by hand in their tiny three-roomed office.
- What Nepal lacks in tech infrastructure the engineers made up for in ingenuity — Ginger’s sleek-looking plastic body was painted in a neighbourhood car workshop.
- With its eyes on the global market, Paila Technology is in the process of patenting its design to sell at home and abroad.
- The World Economic Forum recently predicted that by 2025 more than half of all jobs will be performed by robots — almost twice as many as today. That is a trend Ginger’s creators are banking on.
(With inputs from AFP)