Pentagram/MIT Senseable City Lab
MIT Senseable City Lab in collaboration with the Coca-Cola Company and Bacardi Rum
Introduced at the 2013 Google I/O conference, Makr Shakr is an installation that uses robotic barmen to mix drinks in approximately one googol different crowd-sourced combinations. The installation explores the dynamics of social co-creation and digital manufacturing. Users download the app on their handheld devices and mix selected ingredients as their own virtual barmen, then watch as the cocktails are crafted by 3 KUKA robots and delivered via conveyor belt.
Makr Shakr is an exceptionally well executed folly that was a captivating addition to an important event. And while robots replicating human action is nothing new, the fact that it includes us as part of the process (thereby subverting our idolization of bartenders and their bespoke cocktails) helps us ask the question: what happens when we all become makers of anything and everything in this world?
Introduced at the 2013 Google I/O conference, Makr Shakr is an installation that uses robotic barmen to mix drinks in approximately one googol different crowd-sourced combinations. The installation explores the dynamics of social co-creation and digital manufacturing. Users download the app on their handheld devices and mix selected ingredients as their own virtual barmen, then watch as the cocktails are crafted by 3 KUKA robots and delivered via conveyor belt.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Makr Shakr explores the dynamics of social creation and consumption— “design, make and enjoy.” Rather than trying to replace a bartender with a robot, Makr Shakr looks at how people might embrace the new possibilities offered by digital manufacturing—in this case, mechanical barmen—to help them collaborate and co-create.
The interface gives users an opportunity to literally connect over drinks, to interact with and learn from each other. The design uses a hexagon/honeycomb system that appears as a tessellating structure. The display shows the queue of drinks in the works, the profiles of users, and the mixture of ingredients in their drinks, as well as what cocktails and combinations are trending across the crowd.
While robot barmen are a lot of fun, the project also a serious exploration of ways people might work together in the future and a dynamic visualization of social interaction based around product choices. The app and interface gave users the opportunity to literally connect over drinks—interact with and learn from each other, be inspired by each others’ choices, and share recipes and photos on social networks.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
The project taps into the social aspects of drinking and was a natural fit for the beverage manufacturers, who had an opportunity to study behavior and filter out information like what people are drinking, how many are drinking, what drinkers of different sexes or ages prefer, and so on. The application also tracks interesting data like how people change or enhance their next cocktails after seeing what others are drinking—how a certain ingredient or mixture is tried out, after one user sees what another is doing. The digital design system monitors alcohol consumption and blood alcohol levels by inputting basic physical data, something beyond what a traditional barman can do (and allows drinkers to self-monitor their drinking).
Makr Shakr provided an instantly popular gathering spot at the conferences, where the endlessly moving orange arms of the KUKA robots became a center of attention, backed by the elegant progression of the data displayed behind. The developers of Makr Shakr are currently considering future installations of the project.