In 1983, a Chinese fast-food restaurant in Pasadena, California hired a curious-looking pair of servers: two robots named Tanbo R-1 and Tanbo R-2.
At 4.5 feet tall and 180 pounds, the robots would scoot around; bringing trays of chow mein, spareribs and fortune cookies to customers’ tables.
Shayne Hayashi, the owner of Two Panda Deli, first put the robots to work in 1983. Each Japanese-built robot purportedly cost $20,000 (about $45,000 adjusted for inflation) but were prone to dropping things and letting radio interference make them go a bit haywire. When they worked, they were a hit, telling jokes and delivering food to customers who were assured that this would be the future of the restaurant business.
It was a case of too much, too soon, at least in hindsight. Robots were the wave of the future, just not in the shape of replacement humans, the way we saw them in the movies. Read the story of the robot waiters at Paleofuture. Link
(Image credit: Lowell Georgia)