“Enjoy your meal,” says Ginger, Nepal’s first waiter robot, bringing a steaming dish to a table of hungry customers.
The impoverished nation of the Himalayas is better known for its high peaks than for the technological prowess, but a group of self-taught young innovators want to change that.
Local startup Paaila Technology built Ginger, a 1.5-meter-tall robot, from scratch, and programmed it to speak both in English and Nepalese.
The bilingual humanoid robot, called Ginger, ginger in English, as this is a common ingredient in Nepalese cuisine, is also capable of making jokes, such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa.
There are currently three Ginger robots working in the Naulo restaurant in Kathmandu, whose streets and buildings still bear the scars of the powerful earthquake that shook the capital of Nepal three years ago.
“This is our testing ground, we are fine-tuning it with the answers from our clients,” Binay Raut, the company’s executive director, told AFP.
The team of 25 young engineers, among whom Raut, aged 27, is the oldest, worked for months in the construction of the robot in a tiny office.
Everything that Nepal lacks in technological infrastructures they supplied with inventiveness. Thus, Ginger’s polished plastic body was painted in a nearby vehicle workshop.
Naulo opened its doors four months ago and its three robot waiters have been a great attraction for customers of all ages.
Ginger, who is able to capture movement and obstacles, makes her way through the busy restaurant carrying trays overflowing with food. Customers place their order through a touch screen on the tables and the kitchen calls Ginger when the dishes are ready.
“It was a totally new experience,” says Shalikram Sharma, born 73 years ago, when in Nepal television did not even exist.
Ginger has become a star of the selfies and sometimes gets distracted from her work when the children look for a picture with him.
“I could not believe they were made in Nepal,” says Neelam Kumar Bimali, a customer who enjoys a family dinner.
With an eye on the world market, Paila Technology is in the process of patenting its design to sell locally and abroad.
The World Economic Forum recently predicted that by 2025 half of the work will be done by robots, more than twice as many as today. The creators of Ginger bet on this trend.
At the moment, some human waiters help Ginger, but we are working on an improvement that would allow the Naulo restaurant to be managed only by robots.