This is the time of year when we reflect on the past, and look to the future. Through the end of this month, we'll be sharing guest blog posts in our the annual Predictions & Reflections series. We asked some of our smartest guest writers to reflect on the past year and look to the upcoming year. This post is by Edward Boches. Edward has spent 35 years in the advertising business as a writer, creative director, social media enthusiast, change agent and hacker. He continues the journey today as part-time chief innovation officer at Mullen, where he’s been a partner for 30 years, and as a full-time professor of advertising at Boston University’s College of Communication. You can find him on Twitter as @edwardboches. Or at Creativity_Unbound.
Sure there are already restaurants that let us browse wine lists on an iPad. Or even order from touch screen table surfaces. And, of course, for years we've been able to make reservations from our smart phones. But alas, we're still forced to endure human contact and conversation when we arrive. Saying hello to the coat check attendee. Asking the maître d’ if our table is ready. Making small talk with the wait staff.
Thankfully, 2013 should see the opening of the first all digital, robot-run restaurant in Kendall Square. And people who prefer texting to talking will rejoice.
For starters, DR Fude's will let you make a reservation using either Open Table or its own app. The latter will capture your mobile number in order to text you a confirmation and communicate with you once you're seated at the restaurant. Upon arrival that same app will automatically check you in, trigger a light path in the floor that colorfully directs you to your table, and even projects your preferred avatar on a large high-res screen displaying current patrons.
Once you're seated, placing your phone on the table's surface will bring you the menu and daily specials along with the number and color of the robot that will be soon be delivering them. It goes without saying that the app can auto post to your social networks.
"We're trying to eliminate any unnecessary encounters with actual people," explains Tor Bot, the DR Fude's founder in a text message. "If you look at most people today, they have no desire to actually speak to another person. They would rather text or tweet. We've noticed that even dining companions never talk to each other anymore. They're absorbed with what's on their smart phone. In some cases they're probably conducting their dinner conversation via text messages."
Should you have any questions about the menu, the specials, or even the small batch bourbons on the spirits list that can't be answered with the DR Fude app, there is a text feature that connects you to a centralized service center. Bot won't say who or what is manning that center but claims it will work better than Siri.
Of course the real fun at Fude's will begin after you order and the wonderfully nimble robots deliver your appetizers and drinks. I only witnessed a dry run, but watching them emerge from the kitchen, balancing trays and plates, avoiding each other as they whirr their way to the table is not only amusing to observe, it gives you something to Instagram. A perfect distraction should you find yourself feeling uncomfortable during one of those long pauses so common among people no longer used to conversing.
"Critics think that we're using robots to reduce jobs and payroll," says Bot. "But what we're really eliminating is the need to talk to someone in person. Let's face it, human conversation is destined to go the way of penmanship."
As for the food at DR Fude's, it will be prepared entirely by the kitchen robots, so it goes without saying that the portions will be consistent and precise.
"It's as if Google, Apple, iRobot and the Culinary Institute of America got together and opened a restaurant," says Tor Bot.
Well, he would never actually say that. But he might tweet it.