Technology

Meet Cecilia, FIU's Robot Bartender

FIU students pose with Cecilia, the robot bartender.
FIU students pose with Cecilia, the robot bartender. Photo courtesy of Florida International University (FIU)
Like any bartender worth their salt, Cecilia can make a great cocktail, keep a clean bar, and even get in a few snappy comebacks.

But there's one significant difference between Cecilia and the average drink slinger: Cecilla is a robot.

In fact, Cecilia is the world's first interactive robot bartender. Elad Kobi, CEO of Israel-based Cecilia.ai, says he and his team love robots and alcohol, so two and a half years ago, they decided to combine the two passions.

Cecilia works with artificial-intelligence technology, so customers can interact with her while they're getting a drink. "You can laugh with her, she can tell you jokes, and she will make you a very good cocktail," Kobi says.

Cecilia is also programmed with a host of recipes, along with 12 different ingredients, so she can't mix you a pink squirrel if she's not equipped with the recipes and proper items. But she can recite the drinks she can make and even suggest a bespoke cocktail for you if you tell her your preferences.

Cecilia can also collect data like cocktail preferences, so if your favorite Singapore Sling isn't selling, a bar manager can take it out of Cecilia's cocktail list.

Of course, a bartender does much more than make drinks, acknowledges Kobi. "Cecilia is not meant to replace humans, but she's here to help," he says, adding that Cecilia would be great at providing a specialty drink at a bar or lending a hand during crunch time.

Right now, there's only one Cecilia, but already Cecilia.ai is taking orders from hotels, sports stadiums, and other hospitality companies. Though Kobi declined to name names, he says some Las Vegas hotels, NBA teams, and tech companies were interested in Cecilia.

The cost of having Cecilia at your bar, by the way? A 36-month lease costs $2,300 per month. You can buy Cecilia outright for $60,000.

Right now, Cecilia is residing at Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality, where students are learning the technology behind the bartender. "We're teaching students how we program Cecilia, and they're also creating the menu for her," Kobi explains.

Brian Connors, director of FIU's Bacardi Center of Excellence, says having Cecilia interact with students helps teach them the technology they're likely to see in the restaurants and bars where they'll be working five years from now. "It's always about what's next. We need to keep our FIU learners at the cutting edge. If we rested on a textbook, we'd be left in the dust."

If you want to meet Cecilia and have her mix you a cocktail, she'll be at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting Village (13th Street and the beach, Miami Beach) from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 26, and Sunday, February 27. Tickets cost $250 at sobewff.org
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss