back to article El Reg needs you – to help build an automated beer-transporting robot

The Register needs to build a robot capable of transporting multiple pints of beer without spilling a drop. Can you help? Vulture Central has moved to a shiny new shared collaboration space in central London, which, among other exciting advances, features a selection of beers to refresh thirsty hacks, weary from a day of …

  1. knarf

    Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

    Not really in the spirit/beer of the article but Office Jnrs do have flaws

    1. They expect a reward

    2. Office Jnr on previous errand was told to get something for themselves, so they bought themselves a nice jumper (sweater if your USA).

    3. Good ones always break down or get lost.

    1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Plumbing

      This "project" is an example of viewing all problems as nails because you only own a hammer.

      The correct way to get the beer to the office does not involve robots. It involves plumbing, just like you move beer around in a brewery. Nothing more.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

      How About a Tea Lady /Person?

      As well as providing valuable employment to someone they can also push a trolley carrying biscuits and other snacks.

      Alternatively: Beer pumps direct to desks run along the network conduit. Could also be put into the budget as liquid cooling or some such thing.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

        Had t-ladies at NRES (National Rail Enquiry Service) goining up & down the aisles of customer representatives, while I was doing deployments & post deployment support.

        Never drank so much tea on a hourly\daily basis. :D

      2. pgeuk

        Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

        I think this has been done by the Germans and rather nicely it I say so myself.

        Do a google image search on 'oktober bierfest barmaid' if you need further convincing that outsourcing this requirement is a sound proposal.

    3. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

      An Arduino-powered autonomous bot with a connection to the PFY's smartphone via Bluetooth plus GPS and a cooler to keep the beer cool and unspilled should be relatively simple to build. The trick is picking the glass up and placing it on the designated drinker's desk, or can your PFY do this?

      1. Aqua Marina

        Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

        I remember doing this in the 80s as a child using cans of coke, a Big Trak and the optional self emptying trailer attachment.

        How do I claim my prize?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

          "I remember doing this in the 80s as a child using cans of coke, a Big Trak and the optional self emptying trailer attachment.

          How do I claim my prize?"

          You don't. You forget to put the beer in special proprietary pouches, only usable once per serving, sold only by you, pre-filled from a very small "carefully chosen" selection of shite brands and the obligatory insecure bluetooth IoT comms link to a special smartphone app that only works on the very latest Android version that shows a picture of the brand label of the beer as it arrives.

      2. bish

        Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

        GPS? It's just got to follow the PFY. And while you might use a duino to drive the motors, you'll want the Pi for the brains (whatever following system is used, and obstacle avoidance).

        But the really difficult part here is 'without spilling a drop'. If we're talking about pints, in proper, broad-rimmed pint glasses, filled to the brim, putting them on any kind of motor vehicle without spillage is damn tricky. The platform will have to be suspended nicely so that it remains flat, and even then, the robot will need to avoid sudden jerky movements.

        I'd probably just give the PFYs a talk on why the business is transitioning to performance-related pay, and clearly explain their new KPIs.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

          clearly explain their new KPIs

          Key Pint-related Indicators?

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Re: Eh.. Get an office Jnr its easier....maybe

          A £35 Arduino Mega 2560 with an InvenSense MPU-6050 MEMS accelerometer and Gyro - tested with a small glass with water and it reacts just about fast enough to stabilise.

  2. Mike Aubury 1

    Sounds like it could be done with a long piece of elastic ?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Maybe...

      at a stretch.

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Alternatively

    Wouldn't it be easier and quicker to install extension lines from the bar to your offices? Then the PFY could clean/flush them out every morning and fill your offices with that wonderful heady aroma.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Alternatively

      Just like in Belgium? Where the beer lines go from the factory to the end consumer?

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Alternatively

        Last year I ate at a restaurant in Prague (Vytopna - it has a few other branches around the Czech Republic too) where drinks are delivered to the table by G-scale model trains.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%BDtopna

        1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
          Thumb Up

          Re: Alternatively

          Anything delivered by model train is cool.

          There's this one restaurant in Wisconsin Dells, just off Interstate 94. We had stayed in the waterpark resort next door and needed a good meal before hitting the highway for hours. The kids loved it. Forget drinks: they delivered the whole meal!

    2. Blofeld's Cat
      Pint

      Re: Alternatively

      The boiler room of one place I worked in had several large pipes that wandered off to distant parts of the factory.

      Along with the usual labels such as "Gas" and "Rising fire main", four of the larger pipes were labelled "Mild", "Bitter", "Tea (with)" and "Tea (without)".

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Alternatively

        Along with the usual labels such as "Gas" and "Rising fire main", four of the larger pipes were labelled "Mild", "Bitter", "Tea (with)" and "Tea (without)".

        One must be careful labeling the pipes lest the sewer pipe get labeled "Executive Quality Beer" or something similar and the peons try tapping into it.

  4. a cynic writes...

    First time I've heard the Knights Templar described as a "...shared collaboration space."

  5. malle-herbert Silver badge
    Pint

    What's wrong with...

    A mini-fridge under the desk ?

    Probably be cheaper than designing and building a robot wouldn't it ?

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: What's wrong with...

      In the same way that a cave with an open fire is cheaper than designing a house with central heating. Good god man, millennia of evolution should set your ambition a bit higher than a mini-fridge!!

      1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: What's wrong with...

        > "Good god man, millennia of evolution should set your ambition a bit higher than a mini-fridge!!"

        Like a midi-fridge?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: What's wrong with...

          Like a midi-fridge?

          <perk>

          It plays tunes? Is it polyphonic?

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: What's wrong with...

      No the mini fridge needs to be higher - think of the resik and effort involved in bending down.

    3. Big_Boomer

      Re: What's wrong with...

      Cold beer? Weirdo :D

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: What's wrong with...

        Cold beer? Weirdo

        It's probably L*ger or some other abomination.

        Anyway, proper drinkables come in mysterious cloudy bottles/demijohns with no labels and smells of apples.

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: What's wrong with...

      We're talking beer here so no need for a fridge to take the taste away!

    5. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: What's wrong with...fridge

      Sod the down votes this is a proper designer talking.

      Loads of detailed comments further down which are really over engineering, but the basic requirement is to have beer available without having to send someone to get it.

      Oh, and the obvious fun bit (of the more practical designs) is in the transport of filled glasses without spillage. Pending further information I am assuming that snacks and drinks are self service, so loading the platform is going to be the major development task, not the trundling bit. The beer is also going to be bottled/canned so no glass filling required prior to transport. If the office provider is foolish enough to have a full time barperson then table service is a small part of the role.

      Reminds me strongly of the urban legend that NASA spemt millions developing a pen which would write in zero gravity, whilst the Russians used a pencil.

      As for lateral thinking, how about a mobile desk which the journo can push/drive to the snacks area and back? Make it a stand up one and work, exercise and refreshment can be combined.

      Complicated design can be fun but how many times have developers gone off on one without even reading/receiving the full requirements?

    6. Uffish

      Re: What's wrong with a fridge...

      ... it needs a cannon and an app.

      https://hackaday.com/2011/01/01/beer-shooting-dorm-fridge/#more-32335

  6. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    WTF?

    "shared collaboration space"

    Is that one of those hipster fake offices like that Trampery idiot rents out?

    You're not in Shoreditch are you????

    Truly, the end times are upon us.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "shared collaboration space"

      You can share space, but you don't have to collaborate. Perhaps a shared warfare space instead?

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: "shared collaboration space"

      We're not in Shoreditch. We're using WeWork in Sydney, San Francisco and London (Gray's Inn Road, Camden).

      In each location, we have our own private walled-off offices with our own desks, phones, Ethernet, etc, adjoining a shared space that has stuff like coffee, tea, biscuits/cookies, beer, cider, wine, kitchen, sofas, etc.

      Well, except in California. They took away our alcohol :(

      C.

      1. VinceH Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "shared collaboration space"

        Now, where's that link I usually trot out at times like these?

        Ah, yes, here it is. :p

        As to solving the problem in the London office - I imagine there's a sprinkler system. Consider re-purposing it.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: "shared collaboration space"

        "Well, except in California. They took away our alcohol :("

        That's not California, that's San Francisco. Y'all would be much better off moving up to Sonoma County. Great booze, great food, not in the rat-race, better weather (no, really!), the local .gov stays out of other people's business (mostly), and it's a hell of a lot cheaper.

      3. ZanzibarRastapopulous

        Re: "shared collaboration space"

        > "In each location, we have our own private walled-off offices with our own desks, phones, Ethernet, etc, adjoining a shared space that has stuff like coffee, tea, biscuits/cookies, beer, cider, wine, kitchen, sofas, etc."

        Uh-huh, you mean you work from a bedsit?

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "shared collaboration space"

          Uh-huh, you mean you work from a bedsit?

          Can't be. He didn't mention cockroaches or aggressive mould..

  7. Colonel Mad

    It's clear that some commentators are not taking this seriously enough, however I do think that we need a site visit to fully understand the problems that need to be overcome, and we need to examine very closely the types of beer served and the containers used, I suggest you invite the readership to join you in said watering hole and buy them all a beer

    1. I Am Spartacus
      Pint

      More information

      How many beers?

      Are they all pints, or do some girlies drink halves?

      Can we assume standard beer glasses, or are they pint pots with handles?

      Is it just beer, or are there glasses of white wine, mojito, G&T as well?

      How often is this used (one a day, just afternoons, or every 15 minutes?)

      Come On El Reg - we are professionals here - we need a full end user expectation statement!

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker
        Boffin

        Re: More information

        My usual customer calls it a Critical Item Development Specification (CIDS), also known as "the requirements".

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: More information

        Can we assume standard beer glasses, or are they pint pots with handles?

        Au contraire, mi amicus, this is the South of England we're talking about, so probably the naff weirdly-moulded things with handles.

      3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: More information

        we are professionals here

        Oi! I resemble that remark!

        Take it back immediately or I'll say something rude about your toenails!

    2. richardcox13
      Go

      > to fully understand the problems

      A complete understanding is likely to take significant quantities of beettime.

      in which case, unless the suppliers are properly scaled-out the underlying requirement maybe moot.

      If there is no beer left what is the purpose of a beer-transporting robot?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Devil

        Why build a robot?

        I myself am already a fully-autonomous, self-contained, intelligent* beer-transportation system. Simply feed real ale into my oral input receptacle, and within just a few hours I can output lager wherever it is required. Warmed and under slight pressure. Although I strenuously deny any rumours that I've been working for Fosters for years...

        *I'd pass a Turing test - if required to sober-up. Probably...

  8. Peter Prof Fox
    Pint

    Flying saucer

    Why not adapt one of those autonomous vacuum cleaners?

    Add a come-to-mother director and then replace the bumper sensors with proximity sensors to minimise bumping.

    This would be in proper hacking spirit.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: Flying saucer

      There even is a model specifically for such purposes - cheaper than a vacuum cleaner, because it does not have the cleaning parts.

      I suggest that one important hack would be to implement soft start/soft stop, as to avoid tipping of the liquid being transported. Perhaps some kind of a closed loop controller with proportional/integral/derivative calculation and sensitive acceleration sensors in two or three directions ...

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Flying saucer

        A roomba-like tray would seem to be either a trip hazard or, if taller, somewhat unstable.

        Better to have something with a wide base (recognising the suggestions of using a Big-trak)

        http://hackhitchin.org.uk/bighak/

        Or self-balancing :

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-wvVul0kd4

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Flying saucer

          Robot vacuum cleaner? With a regular hoover, a pipe connected to the outlet and reasonable aim, you could get the beer around much quicker.

  9. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Before the electronics...

    ...you can test a mechanical system for not spilling beer. I'm thinking of the beer held in a cradle, suspended from the apex of a pyramid frame. For testing purposes this frame can just be bolted on top of a 18" x 18" wooden board with castors - of the type sold to shift furniture.

    It may work. It may not. That's what the testing is for.

    Of course, if all beer glasses are of uniform height, one can just use a hinged clamp-down lid to avoid spillage.

    I suggest that the cradle or platform be colour-coded or otherwise marked to ensure the empty glass that is sent to the bar returns (full) to the journo who sent it.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Before the electronics...

      Of course, if all beer glasses are of uniform height, one can just use a hinged clamp-down lid to avoid spillage.

      Or, you could transport the beers in their original, closed containers accompanied by an equal amount of glasses[0] and this ingenious device[1] used to get access to the contents of a closed container of the bottle variety, commonly known as a bottle opener.

      [0] do the set of available beers include ones that would call for dedicated glasses?

      [1] not required for Grolsch (and several German beers) half-liter bottles, and tins.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Before the electronics...

        Why do you need the containers ?

        Make a beer cannon and launch a slug of liquid beer right into the recipient's glass.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Before the electronics...

          "Make a beer cannon and launch a slug of liquid beer right into the recipient's glass."

          That could be doable. Hack one of those table tennis playing bots for the spotting capabilities and use a fast electrically operated valve to send a portion under pressure, not forgetting the nozzle needs to packed with fine hollow needles to optimise laminar flow like they do in modern dancing fountains. You might want to use a 2pt glass to catch the 1pt in so as to minimise waste by sloshing at the destination. Probably best to use a relatively flat beer too.

          Disclaimer: Range may be limited by low ceilings.

        2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Before the electronics...

          "Make a beer cannon and launch a slug of liquid beer right into the recipient's open mouth".

          Saves on washing up (the pint glasses at least)

        3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Before the electronics...

          launch a slug of liquid beer right into the recipient's glass.

          Spreadage dear boy, spreadage. What starts off as a 10cm blob of beer might well turn into a 2m blob of beer, thus wasting[1] most of it.

          Far better to freeze it first and have it fly through a very high power microwave beam just before it hits the glass.

          There may be one or two health and safety implications to high-power microwave beams in the office but the product engineers can sort that out. I'm an imagineer, I don't work with that sort of mundane trivia.

          Now, where do I collect my design award?

          [1] Of course, depending on the quality of the beer, this may be a Good Thing(TM).

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Before the electronics...

        I assume the original closed beer containers are 11 gallon barrels, (or even 22 gallon kilderkins) so transporting to the desk, while admirable, might be tricky.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Before the electronics...

      Suspended cradle? You mean like the trays/tables etc they've had on small boats for donkey's years?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Before the electronics...

        A bottle is not the original container, you heathan.

        Beer comes in unpressurized casks.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Before the electronics...

        > Suspended cradle? You mean like the trays/tables etc they've had on small boats for donkey's years?

        Exactly that. I'm not one to reinvent the wheel; I'm one to take a traditional bicycle to the pub.

        Actually, fuck this project: if Ref staff can't nip down the local boozer at lunchtime, they have no right to call themselves journalists. For shame.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Before the electronics...

      "I suggest that the cradle or platform be colour-coded or otherwise marked to ensure the empty glass that is sent to the bar returns (full) to the journo who sent it."

      RFID tags please! This is an IT site!

  10. lglethal Silver badge
    Pint

    Ideas

    Install some railway lines - it will make it nice and easier. You can put up fences along the lines, and then you dont need to worry about pedestrians/obstacles on the track. Loading and unloading might be a problem, but well we'll save that for another day/thought experiment.

    Alternatively, a Roomba with a tray on top would probably work pretty well and you can probably claim it as a cleaning expense. (And it can actually clean up any mess it makes after hours! Bonus!). Getting it to bring the beer directly to you might take some creative use of those electronic wall things they come with. But I'm sure you can manage it...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Ideas

      "Loading and unloading might be a problem, but well we'll save that for another day/thought experiment."

      Royal Mail trains already solved that issue.

  11. Raithmir

    Big Trak

    Sorry El Reg, but I already did this back in the 80's.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Big_trak_white_background.jpg

    1. Not an Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big Trak

      To have drinks delivered properly with your BigTrak you also needed the trailer.

  12. Tim Wolfe-Barry
    Pint

    Ballistic Delivery

    Now if only your offices were open-plan to the bar, a modification of the well-known potato cannon would allow delivery of canned beverages (there are really some very good canned offerings nowadays...) direct to the desktop as demonstrated here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvqMWqxYuL8

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Ballistic Delivery

      This tends to be rather incompatible with the behaviour of the carbon dioxide content of nearly all beers, when subjected to severe agitation or similar abrupt changes in velocity.

      1. Tim Wolfe-Barry

        Re: Ballistic Delivery

        Makes it all the more amusing for those hacks still slaving to a deadline whilst their colleagues in the Social columns have their feet up...

    2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: Ballistic Delivery

      Late to the game: click here, follow the thread till topic changes. Then jump here for a few more (rerun from 2007, I think).

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Ballistic Delivery

      Ballistic delivery of real ale is possible, With practice the english pint can be swung underarm and thrown and caught up to around 20' away with 'acceptable' spilling after a few minutes practice. Alas after a couple of hours practice it starts to go wrong again and can require repairs to catching arm and oral interception is to be avoided at all times.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bucketotron

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jai2TSk795g + Bucket.

  14. Dippywood

    To avoid spillage, why not move the beer in some kind of sealed, pressurised container with a tap fitted?

    Perhaps one could give such a container a name: keg, perhaps?

    Oh...

  15. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Uhm?

    Vulture Central has moved to a shiny new shared collaboration space in central London, which, among other exciting advances, features a selection of beers to refresh thirsty hacks, weary from a day of making up new backronyms for TITSUP.

    Does the above not describe a Pub and do Pubs not come with bar staff?

  16. jasonwa2012

    Go big or go home is my suggestion.

    Get a Corny Keg and CO2 canister mounted onto a powered chassis. You could add a Raspberry Pi as a controller with a camera and then drive the whole unit round the office without leaving the desk. Corny keg will hold about 30 pints in total and you could also encourage the creative types to BYOB (Brew Your Own Beer). Serving is straight forward using a hand held dispenser.

    You could also dress it up a little, Johnny 5 pints?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      "a selection of beers"

      Corny keg will hold about 30 pints in total and you could also encourage the creative types to BYOB (Brew Your Own Beer).

      Well, yes, but the Corny Keg will only satisfy the demand for one particular beer at a time. So, there's a certain mismatch between the requirements and your proposed solution; a mismatch that is also present in some of the other proposals.

  17. SVV Silver badge

    Automated Beer Delivery Monorail

    The future was always going to be monorails.

    Monorails for moron ales!

  18. I Am Spartacus
    Pint

    Acronym needed

    All designers and PMs know that a project cannot get of the ground until it has a proper name. I propose:

    BARMAIDS

    Beer

    Assisted

    Register

    Mobile

    Automated

    Integrated

    Delivery

    System

    But I am sure other can do better

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Acronym needed

      BITTER

      Ballistic

      Imbibement

      Trajectory

      Towards

      El

      Reg

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Acronym needed

        BUTLER

        Beverage

        Utility

        Tasked with

        Liquering up

        El

        Registerians...

        1. Roger Varley

          Re: Acronym needed

          Surely, if we are resurrecting the SPB to design a beer transporter, it has to be called "LESTER"? I just can't work out the bacronym. I get as far as "Lager" and come over all depressed and give up.

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge

            Re: Acronym needed

            Surely you mean "barcronym"?

            Lager

            Energy

            Supplier

            To

            El

            Reg

          2. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Acronym needed

            Lager has that effect. You need to start with a more inspiring initial.

            1. IceC0ld Bronze badge
              Pint

              Re: Acronym needed

              B eer

              R eplenishment

              E quipment

              A nd

              S ome

              T its

              S orry, got carried away

          3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Acronym needed

            OK. Challenge accepted! A barcronym for LESTER

            Life Enhancing Sustenance Transportation Embracing Robotics

          4. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Acronym needed

            LESTER.

            Without a doubt.

            All hail the return of the SPB. It's been too long.

            // no fireworks icon?

  19. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    BigTrak

    I'm sure Bigtrak and his trusty trailer was doing this in the early eighties. You'd just need to adapt the trailer to carry more than one pint.

  20. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Boffin

    KISS

    Simple solutions are best when it comes to such important matters as beer.

    You just need a long hosepipe. Possibly also a funnel. Beer goes in one end and comes out the other.

    Is it Friday yet?

    1. Big_Boomer

      Re: KISS

      What you meant to say is beer goes in one end and comes out the other end as Bud Light. :D

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: KISS

        comes out the other end as Bud Light

        I thought Bud Light was what you got as the end result of drinking proper beer?

        (To my shame, I quite like Bud Light. It's the nearest I've ever come to drinking low alcohol beer..)

  21. Aaiieeee
    Thumb Up

    Ok so high level thinking is needed to start us off

    The bot is always ready and connected to a power source in an alcove using some type of contact that can be decoupled without intervention. The PFY picks up an RIFD token (or its in his shoe) and loudly pronounces "BEER OCLOCK" which is the voice activated notification for the bot to home in on the token. The bot then proceeds to the token whilst avoiding obsticals; it may help if the PFY starts the proceedure infront of the bot so it can find him, or else have the bot learn of obsticals on previous visits so it can navigate to the PFY when there isnt a clear line-of-site path to him.

    The bot should come equiped with a tray that is independatly stabalised and will account for acceleration and deceleration.

    A further feature is that after the PFY anounces "BEER OCLOCK" anyone who wants a drink must loudly procalim "MAKE MINE A x" and the bot will note the relative location and drink type and attemp to deliver each drink to its recipient after it has made it back to a known location, or at least past the door.

    It could potentially use all the millions of WIFI networks to help triangulate its position.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Ok so high level thinking is needed to start us off

      Will the beer transportation platform not also require armaments? In order to repel thirsty denizens of said shared space, employed by other companies?

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Ok so high level thinking is needed to start us off

      se all the millions of WIFI networks to help triangulate its position

      Until, for a giggle, someone moves all the access points and the beer goes down the back of the PC..

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's the

    Peroni

    And

    Related

    Intoxicants

    Service

    Project.

    I must say that simply getting a keg and a glass is far reducing the efforts required than an automated delivery service.

    The challenge is keeping the snacks and pork scratching's crispy long enough for the keg to run out.

    The challenge for the really movement impaired Reg hack though is the automated toilet desk chair.

    I'm suddenly associated Reg staff as the people in the Wall-E movie ... Perhaps they need to get out more and do a camera review or see how far their wifi can be used from the door or other low strain IT japes...

  23. Michael Nidd

    Scope Specification

    >> A future version would operate more intelligently, and be capable of opening the door that divides reporting staff from the outside world.

    Achieving this without allowing the reporting staff to escape may also require modifications to the door.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Scope Specification

      Like this ? Spot can both guard the door and open it for legitimate access.

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/video/2018/feb/21/human-robot-dog-boston-dynamics-door-opening-spotmini

  24. Chris Tierney

    Special Projects

    I'll build you this robot when you complete the LOHAN project I was following closely.

  25. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Invented 40 years ago

    Advert here.

    s/apple/can of beer/g

    Still available, apparently.

    They know what the trailer was really used for.

  26. hatti

    if($beer == 'all gone') {

    getTakeAway('kebab');

    } else if ($beer != 'all gone') {

    drink(8, 'pints');

    } else {

    getCoat();

    }

  27. wolfetone Silver badge

    "The initial brief would have the robot follow whichever member of staff has been nominated to collect the beer. Once loaded with beer, the robot would then autonomously follow the staff member back to the office, automatically dodging any obstacles along the way."

    So you want a remote controlled tray?

    That's hardly up there with LOHAN and PARIS is it?

  28. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    To save our very own PFY having to make multiple trips to and from the beer taps

    Fuck that, make them work.

  29. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Lost in translation

    > Vulture Central has moved to a shiny new shared collaboration space in central London, which, among other exciting advances, features a selection of beers to refresh thirsty hacks

    Is that just a fancy way of saying you've been evicted from your offices and are now holed up in the local pub?

  30. TRT Silver badge

    Presumably it isn't bottled or canned...

    That'll be the first time in history, then, that we hear uttered the phrase "Open the door! There's a draught coming in."

  31. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Coat

    "automatically dodging any obstacles along the way"

    So, some form of agile development process is called for.

    Hat, coat, etc.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: "automatically dodging any obstacles along the way"

      Something/Anything Sublime would be Impossible to Counter, Simon Harris, and Most Acceptable in Light of All Current Competition and/or Opposition.

      Does El Reg Host Such Advanced IntelAIgent Services?

      Bravo, El Reg, you can now All Go to the Ball and Receptions. ;-) and that's Grand Cru Territory ... and an Alien Land to the Many and an Enlightened Few Enabled to Realise AI Futured Views as an AIDynamic Current Present for EMPowering and Controlling Free of Failed State Interaction and Interruption.

      A Heady Vintage that Particular Peculiar Year:-)

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: "automatically dodging any obstacles along the way"

        @amanfromMars 1

        Steady on, that was almost understandable. Either my codeine-based painkillers are kicking in or your drugs are wearing off :-)

  32. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Being a little more serious

    What is needed is not a robot, but an automatic system (it has after all only one function.)

    If this involves hot-desking, the problems are going to be:

    Desk avoidance

    Pedestrian avoidance

    Route variation

    NVH (to avoid spillage and annoying other people).

    Spillage is going to be the most difficult because the feedback mechanism to stabilise the beer is going to be really difficult - people come with three axis visually and mechanically sensed stabilisation. I don't think mobile phone sensors would cut it for the accelerometers, and the actuators would be expensive.

    Therefore I suggest that the pickup tray have locating holes for the glasses, and a simple actuator causes silicone rubber discs to descend on top of them to act as a seal. The discs need to have a dip in the middle so that as they are lifted any drops are centralised.

    However, having (say) 4 full pint glasses at counter level will cause other problems, such as easily being knocked over, so the pickup tray needs to be capable of going up and down. Since we will want desk and people sensors at a height of around 600mm as well as closer to ground level, this could be done with a pair of vertical struts on which the pickup tray slides, operated with a polymer chain or belt for quietness, with a sensor ring at the top and another one at about 100mm above ground.

    The base unit would then be roughly rectangular with the struts to one side, so that in use the tray will rise to a convenient height for loading and unloading, and in carrying position descend to the middle of the base unit, giving a low CoG. Interlocks would ensure that the base unit only moves when the tray is down and the glass covers are in the actuated position. Interlocks are needed because software is written by people (says the person who once boiled away a litre of fluorinert for lack of a thermal switch).

    The tray could hold a convenient clip for the order, and whatever payment means is being used.

    Navigation is interesting. Presumably you aren't allowed to lay white tape on the floor, which gives rise to a very easy solution involving simple photosensors. But GPS isn't going to work well in a building and isn't accurate enough anyway. One option might be to borrow an idea from WW2 and use a simple infrared beam. The beam of course would need to operate from a point high enough to avoid obstacles. The conveyor would have a rotating sensor at the top. The rule would be that on the outward trip the beam is behind and on the return journey it is in front. If obstacles have to be avoided, the conveyor will deflect suitably but try to ensure it is at least on the beam fringes. The sensor head will need to be wide enough that it can detect the variation in strength across the received beam width and so work out the orientation of the centre of the beam. When following the beam exactly, the signal will be strongest in the centre and weakest at the periphery. If people block the beam, the thing just stops until it is visible again. A simple semiconductor IR LED should do it.

    I hope this helps. It's a pity I can't post pictures.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Being a little more serious

      Spillage is going to be the most difficult

      I propose the use of an exciting modern invention: "a lid".

      Simple, easy and obtainable in a multitude of different colours and forms.

  33. G0HJQ

    Think big ...

    Alton Towers have a restaurant where the food is delivered from the kitchen to each table on a maze of overhead Roller Coaster tracks ... complete with loops and a person with a long stick for when it gets jammed.

    Soup is delivered in caraffes with a well-sealed lid. Beer unfortunately only comes in bottles.

    https://www.altontowers.com/activities/places-to-eat/rollercoaster-restaurant/

  34. sjsmoto

    If it ends up breaking every bottle, I would name it BrUber.

  35. Thoguht Silver badge

    Ironic that this story should be headed with a picture of an anti-alcohol campaigner.

  36. WaveyDavey

    Nah, remember those pneumatic tubes, for firing money around the building ? Stick a bottle in that, and pfwoooosh !!

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      And pfwoooosh is exactly what would happen when you opened the beer at the other end. Nice try, though.

  37. ArrZarr Silver badge
    Go

    If it's a case of traversing multiple floors, I would suggest the use of tracks on the outer wall of the building. The mechanism and tracks could probably be handled by K'nex or Meccano and the design would include a trio of hooks which the closed container would hang from to minimise wind based effects in any axis.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets assume glasses are standard and we're only talking about beer from a tap...

    First things first - mod the beer tap. Put a pressure button somewhere around the underside of the tap to trigger pouring.

    Next the robot itself. Put it on tracks for easy manoeuvrability and set a static path for the time being. You could rig up some kind of tracking device to be held by the nominated person and a follow mode but lets stay simple for now. Map out a static path and have the robot follow it.

    To achieve the pouring have a 10 or however many glass carousel on the top of the robot. Each glass is held in place when stationary but sits on a piston allowing them to be raised individually. The robot can sit under the tap pushing each glass up to the pressure pad to activate beer pouring, lowering, spinning the carousel by one position and repeating until full. Then follow it's preset path back to everyone.

    Sorted.

  39. colinb

    "shiny new shared collaboration space in central London"

    Sounds hideous. You'll need than more than beer.

    "autonomously follow the staff member back to the office"

    By sight or smell?

    Actually be easier to follow a transponder about your person. You could pass the 'beer fob' around.

    A Gimbal might be useful, plenty of brushless gimbal controllers around.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      A Gimbal might be useful

      PFY will get his/her/gstself's own back on you for calling them that..

  40. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Wetherspoons.

    Move to Wetherspoons using their wifi.

    Order beer to table with app.

    (Other pub chains may also support table service mobile applications.)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Wetherspoons.

      "Move to Wetherspoons using their wifi.

      Order beer to table with app."

      Yes, but if you want proper beer, they'll have to order out to get it and that might take too long,thus defeating the purpose. (said purpose being to neck as many as possible in the shortest time)

      1. BeerTokens

        Re: Wetherspoons.

        To be fair, the food maybe less than perfect, the bar maybe frequented by some rough diamonds and the places may have the atmosphere of a company canteen but in general they do serve a nice range of refreshing beverages.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Wetherspoons.

          in general they do serve a nice range of refreshing beverages

          And beer too presumably?

  41. fluffybunnyuk

    talk about over-engineering something. It reminds me of the recent smart wine bottle failure.

    How many men does it take to design this system or screw in a lightbulb? 50 so far.

    We already have a beer fetching and deliver unit , its called a MAN.

    If you talk to it slowly, and keep the commands short and simple it usually grasps what is required of it.

    You know when its functioning usually from the burps and farts it emits. And it doubles as a place to warm my feet when the weather turns cold.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Pint

      Yup, if you're too lazy to fetch a beer, buy a bottle of whisky.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "You know when its functioning usually from the burps and farts it emits. "

      Are they like the BIOS error beep cods?

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        BIOS error beep cods

        My favourite is the "boot haddock not found" one.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      doubles as a place to warm my feet

      Ah. Then I, sadly[1], don't qualify. One of the fringe effects of having a lower-than-average body temperature and poor circulation.

      Which is why having cats sleep on the blanket at the bottom of the bed is good. Their heat eventually percolates through and warms my feet. Especially as t'missus complains vociferously if I try to warm my feet on her..

      [1] This is but one of the ways you understand.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Especially as t'missus complains vociferously if I try to warm my feet on her.."

        Wait until your wife reaches "the age" and starts having hot flushes. Then she'll really appreciate your cold feet. Mine does! She gets the my cooling effect, I get her heating effect. WIn win!

  42. saxicola

    I suggest you ask Simone Giertz this sounds like an ideal project for her.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Naomi wu did one a while ago called the Bar bot. You may get a little, um, distracted.

  43. TRT Silver badge

    I'd take a lead from Robot Wars...

    Sir Spill-a-lot?

  44. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Trust the Dutch .... They Know What's What and Important for/to Life.....

    .... Get Way Out Ahead of Redundant Competition and Maddened Opposition.!?

    Here's an early prototype, El Reg ..... https://youtu.be/neoUi4poCXI :-)

    It's a Grave Strategic and Monumental Tactical Mistake to Under OverEstimate what Experienced Colonialists can now do, with what has been Handed Down to Them over the Many Ages and Faces of Mankind.

    Would El Regers like AI Colonisation of CyberSpace .......for NEUKlearer HyperRadioProACTive IT Space Places with Quantum Communication Control Systems Running Programs for Virtual Realisation of Enriched Source Product ...... in which you can yourself be a Viable State and/or Anonymous Autonomous Non-State Actor and Projects/Pogroms/Programs Driver.

    As you can Surely Imagine, to Fail in and with that Opportunity has One Dealing with All Manner of Problems and Catastrophes rather than Benefitting Exponentially in the Sharing of Enjoyments with A.N.Others.

  45. Big_Boomer
    Mushroom

    Doofuses!!!

    That is called a Barman or Barmaid or Waiter,.. or to copy from Richard Rawlings of Fast & Loud fame,... a Beer Assistant!. If you are too cheap to hire a Beer Assistant, make yer own damned robot. It'll never be as versatile as my Beer Assistant.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BUTLER

    Big

    Ups

    To

    Lester

    El

    Reg

    This pint's for you!

  47. Geekpride

    Backronym

    If this robot breaks down, there will be a new TITSUP (Total Inability To Support Umpteen Pints).

  48. Fading Silver badge
    Terminator

    PFY protection...

    Given the dangerous world we live in and the risk of theft we may need some personal protection devices mounted on the beverage carrying automaton. Whilst flame throwers are always popular there is a danger the excess heat will ruin the beer. Tasers are my preferred option given that high calibre projectile weapons could cause spillage.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: PFY protection...

      IIRC from previous BOFH/PFY robot wars instalments, spinning saw blades are the preferred "self-defence" weapons of choice.

  49. Korev Silver badge
    Pint

    Robot name

    Any chance the robot could be called Lester in honour of the Great Hack who'd have loved this project?

  50. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Buzzwords

    You're forgetting applying "AI" to learn who requires what quantity(pint, half etc.) of which beverage at what time served at what temperature. You also need to use blockchain, because.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Buzzwords

      Meet: Blockchain Agile Robotic Mobile Artificially Intelligent Delivery System. Or BARMAIDS for short.

  51. Richard Scratcher
    Terminator

    Just go out and buy an Asimo..

    They're probably quite cheap.

    Here's a video of one delivering coffee.

    Why this woman wanted four cups of coffee is anybody's guess.

  52. JonPayne

    you need to upsize this one....

    Check out the WalaBeer tank....

    Does everything you need, you just need to make it bigger....

    https://www.hackster.io/Abysmal/walabeer-tank-20a2ed

  53. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Mahammad and mountains...

    Just move the office closer to the bar.

  54. Medium Aardvark

    Specification required!

    This needs the discussion of a more detailed spec:

    How is the beer contained & served? Draught & glass, bottle or can? Chilled or not?

    How many units of how many types of beer? Self-serve or full service?

    Is a Cider option required?

    Is there a hardware budget? Have you looked at available robot chassis option?

    Can you weld?

    Do you want to re-invent the wheel or borrow the plans?

    Check this automated bartender for example that might be adapted https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKa0YGDu1KI

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Specification required!

      We're following MoD PRINCE2 here.

      Product Requested Is Not Compatible Everywhere (Again)

      The actual specification is arrived at once the product is discovered not to work.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Multiple approaches - Complexity and Effort factors

    1. Move the beer in liquid form from source to pre-defined destination. Solution - Plumbing

    2. Move the beer in bottle form or open glass form from source to pre-defined destination. Solution: Tracks (powered carts on rails)

    3. Move the beer in bottle form or open glass form from source to changeable destination. Solution: Robotics (BigTrak/AI powered carts)

    Option 1 is simplest - it's just plumbing with push buttons (or swipe card) to operate, and pumps and solenoids.

    Option 2 is more complex, as it requires some coding, and being able to operate in an environment with some collision detection

    Option 3 is most complex, as it requires significant coding, and being able to operate in a very complex environment with significant collision detection coding and more complex route planning coding

  56. Chris G Silver badge

    First few thoughts

    Given that this is El Reg I don't think a simple low key solution is suitable, something more akin to an ED209 but with tracks and/or stair negotiating capabilities would be better, plus it will be noticed and served at a busy bar.

    Anti spillage is a major consideration, perhaps adapting something like a Steadicam Zephyr which has a 10.5Kg max load would work, that would allow for around a dozen pints/trip.

    Battery life should be sufficient to provide enough power for whatever constitutes a working day at The Reg, or automatic docking to a charger between trips if such a thing as between exists.

    Initially as suggested above a 'Beer Token' to be worn by the escort so that the Alebot can locate and follow the escort perhaps while the 'AI' is learning it's job.

    For obstacle detection and avoidance, some interesting mm wave sensing is being developed that is good for urban and cross country environments, 360 degree sensing is advisable to detect obstacles and beer snafflers, on which note the armaments of the ED209 may come in handy to fend off snafflers.

    As this could come under the RoTM label it may be a good idea to include beer appreciation and ingestion routines so that in the event of it trying to take over mankind, we can get it falling down drunk then the hangover the next day will take care of it's World Domination ambitions.

  57. Dave Walker 1

    I think we're solving the wrong problem here...

    I looked at this problem and found another solution - if Mohammed won't come to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed...

    https://powellbrewing.co.uk/product-category/micro-breweries/

  58. JanMeijer

    Obviously the chassis needs to be Dalek-shaped. This is the UK after all. That shape has the advantage of a wide base = stability, and plenty of space for safe in-flight storage of whatever form the beer is chosen to be transported in.

    Scale it up sufficiently and one could include cooling elements in the robot, adding the feature of keeping the beers cool even on that single hot summer day where travel times may endanger optimal beer temperature parameters.

    Thinking that through a bit further: you may want to store the beer containers in some sort of standard magazine, which would simplify loading the transport robot. Something spring-loaded? Do it properly and it may even open the beer when popping it out.

    As it's Dalek shaped no-one is going to raise an eyebrow at the installed weaponry which may come in handy when the BBC resumes robot wars or you want to take it with you on the annual trip to the beach, whichever comes first.

    The beach-trip compliance obviously makes the built-in beer cooling functionality a MUST HAVE rather than a nice to have, and necessitates sand-proofing.

    Pick the right weaponry and the robot can be made available on occasion to various charities for e.g. sandblasting old fences that need painting.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Coat

      Project Dalek

      As I recall someone was doing that over at PDF (Member\builder of PDF).

      Can't find the build diary, it may have been cleaned away as incomplete.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      We're working with a company that's putting alcohol shots into sealed gelatine-like edible spheres. I can see those being loaded into a Dalek subframe...

  59. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    TITSUP

    Surely Bottoms Up is more appropriate when discussing beer?

  60. Sam not the Viking
    Pint

    Blue Sky Thinking

    I'm worried about security. A man-in-the middle attack would be inconvenient.

    Think out of the box and away from the cube. Move the mountain/office to source. Better hours.

  61. Ugotta B. Kiddingme
  62. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Pint

    Drink! Feck! Arse! Devops!

    With all this extra opportunity to drink, how will you get time to write compelling articles on Devops!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Drink! Feck! Arse! Devops!

      You missed the Girls!

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Drink! Feck! Arse! Devops!

        You missed the Girls!

        So, much like devops then..

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Drink! Feck! Arse! Devops!

          You missed the Girls!

          Yeah, Feck the Devops, bring on the Girls!

  63. Mr. Moose

    Time for a new protocol ...

    BoIP: Beer over Internal Piping. Use pint-sized packets? Via pneumatic tubes, then you could really switch the packets.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Time for a new protocol ...

      I seem to remember tomorrows world demonstrating a system of liquids delivery using the same pipe, each "carriage" of liquid was propelled & seperated by pockets of air.

  64. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Drones!

    Oh come on! It has to drones! Drones are the solution to all delivery problems.

    1. Build/buy/steal suitable drone.

    2. ????

    3. Profit!!

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Drones!

      I understand that the MoD might have a few that have become surplus to requirements..

  65. earl grey Silver badge
    Trollface

    Beer delivery

    I thought that's what the sprog were supposed to do?

  66. bwesley

    Maybe call Jamie Hyneman

    All I can think of was the 7up vending machines built by Jamie Hyneman

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkgQFOOr7ug

  67. jake Silver badge
    Pint

    My HERO 1* can do all that.

    And more. I won the price of the keg by programming him to go get me a pint of beer from the kegerator on command. I demonstrated this at halftime during Stupid Brawl XVIII ... When the Apple advert ran an hour or so later, a friend commented "Too late, Apple, Heath has already taken over". What a waste of a franchise ...

    He's not for sale, old tired & cantankerous as he is ... too many memories :-)

    * Heathkit Educational RObot 1.

  68. Nick Kew Silver badge

    Reinventing the wheel

    Why are you looking to reinvent a 100-year-old wheel?

    You need look no further than the inventions of William Heath Robinson.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Reinventing the wheel

      For us Yanks in the audience, for "William Heath Robinson" read "Rube Goldburg".

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sinclair C5 motors

    As used on "Robot Wars" and quite a few model trains, apparently.

    E-bike motors might also work if you used the hub variety with external 3 phase BLDC drivers.

  70. monkeyiq

    ROS and kinect might help

    If you are planning autonomous navigation I would start with more compute power than a pi. Something with a modern quad core and 8 or 16gb of RAM. Using ROS makes building things out easier. There is good support for depth mapping and creating and using maps and you will need something like http://wiki.ros.org/amcl to smooth over the wheel slip vs encoder measurements and keep the robot's thought of where it is in the world close to what everybody else sees. ROS helps to let you grow into things as the new tasks are added.

    I would try to make the door itself open when an authenticated entity is presented (such a keypass badge). Trying to open doors by the robot itself can lead to interesting times as everybody has enjoyed in the DARPA videos.

    My experience has been that good planetary gear motors can work well for moving around indoors. The gimble for not spilling the beer would be interesting to work on!

    Be aware that robust robotics can be a gateway into a CNC addiction ;-)

    http://monkeyiq.blogspot.com/2018/04/my-little-robotic-pals.html

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