back to article Take two cornerstones of British life, booze and queues, then squirt them with face scans: AI Bar

A British firm thinks it has found the answer to an age-old problem – how to decide which boozed-up revellers should get served at the bar first. It works like this. A webcam constantly scans the crowd of eager punters wanting to get a drink and sorts them out in the order in which it first spotted them. They are assigned a …

  1. Tom Chiverton 1

    Ahh, good, something else to crash with a https://ahprojects.com/hyperface/ tshirt.

  2. Simon Harris Silver badge
    Pint

    Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

    The real pub problem for AI to solve...

    When you get to the pub expecting a pint of your usual tipple, only to find that all the familiar taps have disappeared to be replaced with a wall of guest ales foisted onto the landlord and you have no idea which ones don't taste of wee and bear some resemblance to something you might actually want to drink.

    Is this just a London pub thing, or does it happen everywhere these days?

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

      "and you have no idea which ones don't taste of wee and bear..."

      Don't know what bear tastes like, sadly.

      1. Smashing Virtual Pumpkins

        Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

        "Don't know what bear tastes like, sadly."

        I hear it tastes a little hairy.

        1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
          Holmes

          Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

          Grizzley...

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

            Grizzley...

            Or, further north, the Polar opposite..

            (Apparently very, very fishy. And don't eat the liver unless you are used to massive doses of vitamin D..)

      2. Adam Foxton

        Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

        For pints of bear, the flavour is detailed on ursine next to the taps!

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

        Don't be sad, bear is not very good eats. It resembles old beef, being stringy, greasy, and somewhat grainy in texture. It is vaguely sweet, the more fruit in the critters diet, the sweeter it is. Likewise, if they are gorging on fish ... All in all, I hope to never have a need to kill a bear again.

        1. Flywheel Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

          You don't see many bears down the Old Kent Road these days - well done!

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

      It's a London thing I'm inclined to believe since I've yet to have a pint down south that could be considered suitable for human consumption... That said I'm happy to be corrected (though I'm not providing the research budget)..

      1. Gomez Adams

        Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

        I can't face anything brewed from Thames water.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

          face anything brewed from Thames water

          Depends how far up the river you go.. the water before London isn't that bad (by comparison to similar rivers).

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

        Wouldn't worry about it mate. When they see the bill for just one pint in London most Northerners tend to clutch their wallets and faint, muttering "WTF".

        1. zaax

          Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

          When its £10 a pint is when Northerners say WTF

          1. macjules Silver badge

            Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

            The Rake (aptly named) sells Cloudwater’s North West Double IPA at over 3 times normal price: £13.40 a pint, claiming that the beer cost up to four times more to make than a normal brew.

    3. Jayce and the Wheeled Chairs
      Pint

      Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

      Where I drink normally, yeah sure they have the regular fizzy stuff but all the ales and ciders change when they run out. It's what they do.

      I've never had a problem asking to taste/ try a brew before you buy even in places that don't rotate the beers.

      Embrace changing beers, don't just stick to drinking Tenants super

    4. spold Bronze badge

      Re: Not the trickiest problem in pubs these days...

      Yes but the possibilities have not been fully considered....

      Frequent boozer points ... who isn't going to share their PI for a free beer once in a while...

      Classification: Cheap-skate, Amateur, Frequent Boozer, Jakey - priority based on consumption

      Competition - see above

      Competitive bonus offers and discounts - sponsored - since you liked this we think you would also like that...

      Reactive stocking - you drank us dry of .... another barrel will be along shortly

      Affordability - based on your bank balance we can recommend a half of....

      Social networking .... Fred drank a pint of absolute shit at.... pub... at <time> (option to pay and hide)

      Reactive partnerships - we think you are toast, we have billed you for the Uber, we know where you are and we are coming to get you, a free sick bag and a packet of Scampi Fries has been included, no you don't need a curry, please wipe your phone you dropped it in the toilet, we have warned your <significant other>

  3. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
    Pint

    I WAS FIRST MATE

    "this does nothing more than what any reasonable quality bar person could do"

    Very true. But as the early part of the article says, it shows on a big screen to the punters where they stand in the queue, and that's a major source of agro in many a dodgy place.

    1. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

      It's a bit over engineered - they should take a leaf from McDonalds/Argos. Punter accesses a terminal to order and pay for drinks, gets given a number, waits for it to be called.

      Obvs the terminal would probably need to be a bit more robust than those present in McDonalds.

      Alternatively, do it in a phone app for the pub (chain) like Weatherspoons do (other chains available, some even with a differing political stance!) - you just order and pay on your phone at the table. Then someone trots up to your table with a tray of drinks. No-one need crowd round the bar, but if you do - just tap a button and get given a number - bar staff still allowed to filter them out if they're too pissed.

    2. JassMan Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

      Sorry, but I don't see what standing in for the ships captain has to do with your position in the queue. I was expecting some witty anecdote about your time in the navy while waiting for your tot of rum.

      1. trindflo
        Joke

        Re: I WAS FIRST, MATE

        Punctuation can be a real killer.

        https://www.amazon.com/Eats-Shoots-Leaves-Tolerance-Punctuation/dp/1592402038/

    3. Rol Silver badge

      Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

      I have argued this many times in busy bars. Pubs and events that are totally overwhelmed, and couldn't fit enough staff behind the counter to even come close to cutting waiting time to 20-30 minutes.

      VENDING MACHINES - several of them grouped together, so one member of staff can oversee their proper use and intervene if needed, to check id and the like.

      Obviously they sell cans, and considering you can buy most run of the mill alcohol in cans these days, it would leave the bar staff to deal with the crowd that can wait for a proper pint / G&T / etc.

      It ticks all the boxes - the punters are happy to be getting a beer within minutes, and the boss is happy because turnover is doubled, perhaps trebled.

      It's such a no brainer that I can't for the life of me understand why events organisers haven't gone down that route.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

        Nah, vending machines aren't the way forward. The UI is slower than that of a decent barman.

        Speed things up by ordering things that can be poured quickly.

        A decent hand pull beer engine pulls accurate half pints of good ale all day everyday. It's really quick to serve. Other things take longer, pouring Guinness is an art form and can't and shouldn't be rushed.

        Fizzy lagers are a pain in the arse to pour, people ordering them should be made to wait for slowing the whole system down.

        1. Rol Silver badge

          Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

          My point centres on the fact a bar can accommodate x amount of staff. More than x and the individual work rates start to drop dramatically, as they fall over each other, queuing to get to a pump, the till, etc.

          This is an event management solution, where the infrastructure, intended to serve dozens is now called upon to serve hundreds. It just can't cope.

          The vending machines would ideally be located away from the bar, and its associated choke points, as in a local pub I try my utmost to avoid during sunny spells, where their large beer garden gets filled to capacity, and people queue for about an hour to get a drink. Vending machines placed in the beer garden away from the pub's entrance would serve everyone's interests.

          Any venue that is regularly overflowing, should seek a more permanent solution, but for occasional events, the engagement of Beer Vending r us, to instal and run half a dozen machines would save the day.

          Just add up the number of drinks your clientele didn't get to drink while waiting to get a drink, and the lost revenue, and customer dissatisfaction, and the case is crystal clear.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

            Strange thing in pubs, people pile up around a bar to get drinks but if they have an order-at-the-bar point for ordering food, an orderly queue forms.

        2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

          Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

          "Nah, vending machines aren't the way forward. The UI is slower than that of a decent barman."

          Get better vending machines?

          I live in the Netherlands. They are very keen on vending machines, and the hot snacks one are designed to be fairly resilient to the drunks. A number of bars have a beer tap on the table, which will refill your egg cup sized Dutch beer.

          Not sure how it would survive in a British boozer. We get a lot more shitfaced than our EU cousins :D

          I recall a Dutch classmate talking about his "heavy" night out, drinking at least a dozen beers. Which is about three pints...

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

            A beer tap in the middle of the table when you just drink whatever generic euro-stuff comes same every time out is fine. But what group of people all want the same drink?

            But a bar has a really big selection of drinks so that a drinker has choice. Four or five cask ales in a decent pub along with all the other types of beer, liqueurs, wines, spirits, driver-drinks etc.

          2. Flywheel Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

            I had this post-gig at Rotterdam Airport I wanted a couple of pints of something resembling stout, but no, I could only have a 330ml glass. Asking for 4 got around the problem but got me some funny looks...

        3. Alfred

          Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

          How about ten vending machines? That's a lot faster than one barman.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: I WAS FIRST MATE

        "I have argued this many times in busy bars. Pubs and events that are totally overwhelmed, and couldn't fit enough staff behind the counter to even come close to cutting waiting time to 20-30 minutes."

        Simpler answer: Don't attend.

        Seriously. That kind of zoo is rarely, if ever, worth the aggravation. I've been applying this simple solution to the issue for about 35 years now, and to the best of my knowledge I've never missed anything worth sending a postcard home.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changing the order in which you serve customers does not increase the number of customers you can serve. If anything it adds time because you are wasting time looking at a screen to work out who is next leading to less sales over time.

    I wonder sometimes if people actually think these through or hope that others wont.

    1. JassMan Silver badge
      Trollface

      @AC

      Totally agree. I think most customers would also object to having to sign away their privacy rights in order to be able to buy a drink. No where in the article does it mention the screen where potential clients agree to signing away any rights under the GDPR nor how long it takes to read the boilerplate about the duties of the data controller (or even whether the landlord or the AI company is the controller).

    2. Simon Harris Silver badge

      Instead of a screen, how about having a laser that's automatically directed onto the next person in the queue, and whose power steadily ramps up during the process of ordering. That should make the queue move faster.

      1. Rol Silver badge

        What a lovely idea. I second that.

        Perhaps the laser could tattoo "twit" or something similar, on his forehead.

        Although lobotomising the already brain dead also works for me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        If you could somehow mount the laser on a shark then I think you're onto a winner.

  5. Ol'Peculier
    Unhappy

    Not all bar persons are created equally

    But seriously, this does nothing more than what any reasonable quality bar person could do

    Unfortunately, those kind of people don't apply for jobs in Wetherspoons, where a system like this could really sort things out. And it seems a country wide issue, as if there is a central pool of people that each pub can choose from.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Not all bar persons are created equally

      My solution to Wetherspoons is far simpler.

      It involves avoidance.

  6. Vometia Munro

    Maybe I'm biased having a lifetime of experiencing pubs where the shoutiest customers get served first meaning I get repeatedly shunted down the queue when it's busy. I mean I understand the bar staff wanting to avoid aggro so I'm kinda collateral damage, but something that's an alternative to the continental queueing system that's backed up by a visual record of who's been waiting the longest must surely be a step in the right direction...?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Maybe it's the type of pub, but they usually have bar staff who are quite good at serving people in order or arrival, but the customers are also aware of the order they arrived and tend to be polite enough not to step ahead.

      Solo Barman: "Who's next"

      2 x customers: "you go first" ... "no you go ahead".... no it's OK you go first".....

      2nd customer: "Oh OK then, 6 pints of Guinness please" .

      1st customer: "oh shit"

      1. Vometia Munro

        Definitely not much of that sort of thing in my area back when I used to go pubbing, as it featured a lot of City spivs who would march up to the bar and expect to be served instantly. Between them and the bar-flies it could be hard for anyone else to get a look in.

        On the plus side, the bar staff would at least try to deal with some other drinks while Mr Six-Guinness' round was gradually extruding!

    2. Flywheel Silver badge

      Maybe like they do in Argos - take a ticket and wait for your number to be called? Then barter with other punters with lower numbers than you :)

  7. Nosher

    As someone tall enough to have sufficient "bar presence", but who is married to someone who isn't (and as a former barman), I think in principal this is quite a neat idea. However, alarm bells ring at the requirement for internet access, as this would seem superfluous for basic on-site face matching. So what does it need internet access for? Has the state demanded snooping access to the vizogs of drinkers now, to add it its database of possible ne're-do-wells?

    1. cornetman Bronze badge

      > Has the state demanded snooping access to the vizogs of drinkers now, to add it its database of possible ne're-do-wells?

      If not yet, you can get your bottom dollar that they will at some point.

    2. baud

      I'd say they think it's easier to ask for recurring payment if the (l)users can't just run on their own

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The ML model is hosted in <cloud environment> using <technology provider's> face recognition models using scalable resources. This means that only commodity hardware is needed in an environment that does not have IT administrators to look after the serious compute power needed to process these ML models in real-time. And no-one has access to the temporarily stored images captured during processing, not even <technology provider>.

      1. OssianScotland Bronze badge
        Pint

        "And no-one has access to the temporarily stored images captured during processing, not even <technology provider>"

        Aye, Right!

  8. Joe Harrison

    I need an AI haircut

    I get my hair cut at a smallish barbers just far enough away from the office to be a non-trivial drive. It's pot luck how many people will already be sitting there waiting their turn and if you turn up to find too many in front of you then it's an irritating wasted trip so give up and try again a few days later. I have spent ages trying to think of a solution which would let me see queue length online but really can't find one. A simple webcam would do except endless privacy issues. Sofas with bum-detecting weight sensors possibly. This AI thing could be perfect though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I need an AI haircut

      Similar experience here ... though our local barber (5 mins walk around the corner) installed a webcam to show the queue 15-ish years ago (ie in the "aren't web cams cool" phase) which was useful to check before going round ... it wasn't live but took a picture every 10 mins or so - so when I took my son who were 5-8-ish at that time then after a haircut we'd always go straight home and check the webcam to see if we were there! Anyway, after a few years he moved to an online booking system so turning up and waiting in a queue is no longer an option so no need for a webcam ... though as the booking system seems to keep a complete record of every haircut I've had over the past 10-12 years then I suppose there's probably some GPDR line that the paranoid could spin.

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: I need an AI haircut

      > I have spent ages trying to think of a solution which would let me see queue length online but really can't find one

      Err, ring them and ask for the current wait time?

    3. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I need an AI haircut

      No. You need a message/updated que system that lets you see when it's quiet (Google were trialing a service like this, no idea if they killed it) or plain old booking...

      That can be done really easily with "AI" (a bit of math) and you could check your phone, see it's empty, and then pop over... But no, that'd take work so no one does it. XD

    4. jake Silver badge

      Re: I need an AI haircut

      Ring them, perhaps a day or three in advance, and ask for an appointment? If it's your "local", Shirley the barber knows you and your commute from the office, and will accommodate your needs? Mine does. In the days before the telephone, my Great Grandfather had a standing appointment on the first Wednesday of the month, at 2PM[0] ... then, as today, drop-ins had to wait as the barber worked them in around his, and other's, appointments.

      [0] That was the day he went into town to do his banking, and to settle various outstanding bills, and pick up dry goods, the mail, and that kind of thing. Was a major, day long production as he lived about 10 miles from downtown ...

  9. Symon Silver badge
    Pint

    Wanna get served? Not in your local?

    Smile and make eye contact.

    1. Vometia Munro

      Re: Wanna get served? Not in your local?

      Which is perhaps the problem I have: autistic, so no natural smile and eye-contact is kinda scary. :o

  10. I.Geller Bronze badge

    AI answers. If AI has personal profiles/ histories it can search and answer.

  11. Chris G Silver badge

    At last a real world solution provided by AI

    Or of course, I might be making a sarcastic statement.

    Do you have to sign a GDPR agreement on entering the bar?

    After all your face is a part of your personal data which may result in personalised ads for a ' half a shandy'.

  12. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Pub Dystopia

    I could see Cool-Aid overdosed Google and Samsung employees liking this, but the rest of the world probably doesn't want a company recording and analyzing every move they make at a bar.

    Maybe it's OK because no company has ever abused personal data, right?

  13. Jason Hindle

    Meh - Spoons have it sorted

    Sit down, order from the app and pile on the pounds as you fill your face and dream of sunlit uplands. No queuing required. If you’re lucky, they’ll have something better than John Smiths to drink.

    1. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

      Re: Meh - Spoons have it sorted

      Me and a pal, still putting em away the morning after, used the app to circumvent the whole Getting Served When Hammered thing.

      He's tech phobic, so my round was getting a couple of bottles of Kozel or whatever to the table. His was getting refused for being drunk.

      Interesting..

  14. DougS Silver badge

    Talk about solving a problem that doesn't exist

    If you find you are often waiting around and others are getting served ahead of you, ask yourself:

    1) is the male bartender serving others ahead of me because they're cute girls, and I'm not?

    2) is the female bartender serving others ahead of me because my "flirting" comes off really creepy to her?

    3) do I have a reputation for ordering complicated drinks that take a long time to make, or complaining they weren't made to my lofty standards?

    4) if in the US, do I rarely or never tip?

    If you answer those questions honestly, you will see the reason why you are always served last. Most bartenders want control over the order they serve people, and would resist a computer telling them who to serve next. They will keep serving you last until you correct these behaviors.

    1. alexdonald

      Re: Talk about solving a problem that doesn't exist

      Not being a cute girl is not a behaviour

      1. Jason Hindle

        Re: Talk about solving a problem that doesn't exist

        “Not being a cute girl is not a behaviour”

        Depends how good you look in drag...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Talk about solving a problem that doesn't exist

        These days you are free to pick another gender if you don't like the one you're born with. Though the "cute" might be more of a challenge.

    2. Disk0
      Megaphone

      Re: Talk about solving a problem that doesn't exist

      You forgot 0: Why the hell would anyone want to spend another minute in this crappy establishment where they don't serve me my favourite drink stat?

  15. Gomez Adams

    One other rule that bar queuing needs to use: If I have wandered up to the bar for my third or fourth refill with my glass still half full to tide me over while waiting I am quite happy to give way to someone coming into the pub and are desperate for their first pint.

    And what about bar flies who like to drink and chat at the bar rather than moving elsewhere after being served? Is the queuing system able to ignore them?

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Facial scans will only be held for 24 hours at most,

    Just how long ARE the queues in the pub? FFS, there's no need to keep the image once they've been served.

    Of course, if you are brown skinned, and a woman, you may never get served.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: Facial scans will only be held for 24 hours at most,

      Shirley Cards

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this

    Sponsored by the Met?

  18. Carma

    Why does it need an internet connection?

    is it one of these 'cloud apps'? in any case, I know know which pub to steer clear of when 'in t'souf'

  19. moiety

    £2,400 / 1600* extra pints = £1.50 cost per extra pint. Isn't that pretty well all of the profit on those extra pints, plus the extra complication of a tech system to run and maintain? Can't see it flying on those numbers, to be honest.

    1. Daniel 11
      Pint

      They should probably have said '1600 extra serves' where many orders are more than a single pint - or indeed far more profitable drinks than pints....like coke, sprite and fanta(!)

  20. Isabello
    Pint

    Posh git waving £20 note...

    John Wyllie, MD at DataSparQ maybe?

  21. TheProf
    Facepalm

    Intentions

    It won't solve the problem I had in the pub last week.

    Not a busy night so only one barman on duty. The regulars had been served and there was only one customer before me at the bar. He ordered a cocktail. As usual making it involved an obscene number of bottles, the slicing of fruits and incantations to a lesser demon. Then he ordered another, different cocktail for the other person in his group.

    By the time he'd buggered off to the corner his friends had occupied there were a half-a-dozen thirsty pint drinkers waiting.

    Plus: How does this machine cope with the groups of drinkers who stand around watching like hungry hyenas (thirsty hyenas?) while one of their number does the actual ordering? (6 pints of Guinness and a diet coke)

    1. Hairy Spod

      Re: Intentions

      or deal with the hussle and bussle of a dimly lit bar 4 people deep with people moving forwards and backwards.

      The control shot looks rather nicely lit and with people standing face on even distances apart

  22. steviebuk Silver badge

    Massively open to abuse

    They are all queuing calmly and not blocking each other. The amount of people that would start requesting GDPR access to the "Video files you hold on me with your poncy AI queue system" and at some point one system that is created, similar to this, will end up "storing" said videos and what said person purchased and then sell that data to advertisers. All illegally but they'll be like Facebook where they are so big they'll get away with it with just a "Lessons have been learnt" comment.

  23. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    A sign language translating AI would be a much better idea < 1990 Hacienda in Manchester with bleeding ears

  24. Scott 53

    Averages

    the average Brit spends over two months queuing for drinks over their lifetime. Presumably they didn't speak to teetotallers

    Maybe they did. That's how averages work.

  25. MrReynolds2U
    Megaphone

    Courtesy and appreciation

    Find a decent bar-person, tip them (it doesn't need to be much) and smile and thank them.

    For this, the next round you'll be served a lot quicker because we'll remember:

    a) your face

    b) the drinks you want

    c) that you were courteous to us

    Solution looking for a problem methinks.

    Icon - what not to be or you'll be earning penalty queue time.

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