by Simone Davalos
The machines have been packed up, the floor is still sticky, and the participants are
probably still hung over, which means that RoboExotica 2007 — the International
Festival for Cocktail Robotics in Vienna, Austria — has come to a close for another year.
Now in its ninth season, RoboExotica’s goal is to explore
the philosophical implications of man-machine interaction through interactive robotics projects, symposia
featuring notable speakers from all over the world, and lots
and lots and lots of alcohol. RoboExotica is brought to life
by the Vienna Bureau of Philosophy and Austrian art groups
Shifz and monochrom, whose tireless dedication to this
festival and other projects such as Ars Electronica expand
the frontiers of the study of technological philosophy.
RoboExotica celebrates the finer things in life with
robots that make cocktails, provide bar conversation, light
cigarettes, and deliver snacks. The symposium backs up the
show every year with thought-provoking discussions and
David Calkins' barbot Chapek.
Chapek makes three kinds of
martinis and dishes out smart aleck
comments with his beverages.
Monochrom's entry into the
festivities —they were awarded
a Lime for general disservice to
idea exchanges in a semi-academic setting. This year’s
speakers included science fiction writer and Boingboing.net
contributor Cory Doctorow, MetroBlogging’s Sean Bonner,
monochrom artist-in-residence David Fine, and Chaos
Computer Club programmer Jens Ohlig.
Participants from around the world brought their
machines to vie for the top awards, which go to the robots
that best fulfill the stringent and exacting standards of the
judging categories: Serving, Mixing, Conversation, Fire and
Smoke, and Special Achievements. Other sub-categories this
year included Persistence, Environmental, Most Welcome
Off-Topic entry, and Best Swiss Entry, more on that later.
The Freiraum machine gallery space at the
Museumsquartier in Vienna was crowded with old
favorites and some promising up-and-comers. David
Calkins, founder of RoboGames, showed up for his third
RoboExotica with Chapek, the snarky arm-swinging
bartender bot with glowing red eyes. Chapek razzed
the crowd and made vodka or gin martinis, as well as
inappropriate comments to young women. Chapek
ended up taking home the Cocktail Robot Award for the
Conversation category at the Annual Cocktail Robot
Awards, which took place the last night of the festival.
Robert Martin brought back RoboMoji, a popular
machine and four-year veteran of the contest. RoboMoji
makes mojitos with a chain-drive conveyor belt, mechanically actuated lime squeezer and mint muddler, and
automatic shot pourers. The drinks are tasty, but take
a bit of patience while the machine does its thing.
Robomoji’s parts are handmade out of aluminum for
an industrial effect with a sugar-coated ending.
Watching the process is fascinating when it’s running
flawlessly, and even more fascinating when the
machine breaks down and the creators swarm over it
34 SERVO 06.2008