It's been a great year for us here at Party Robotics. We've attended many events with our Bartendro and won first place at the Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge at the DNA lounge. But more importantly, we've enjoyed hearing your feedback and seeing the awesome projects you've made for business and for pleasure. We've attached some pictures and videos of projects we've heard back from this year. Check them out below. We love getting pics of your setups, so please do send them!
We've also been making some improvements within. We recently started using a better platform for turning our manuals into beautiful guides, and a few months back, Sparkfun started distributing our Bartendro Dispensers. We have many ideas going forward on how to improve our products and our documentation and we're looking forward to kicking off 2015 with some exiting new things. May you enjoy your holidays with your loved ones and robot made cocktails, and we'll see you next year!
On a recent camping trip, we took Bartendro out to make drinks for our friends in the fine outdoors. Each bottle had a single tube draped down into its liquid with no bottle topper to keep the bugs out. A small swarm of bees got wind of the sweet scent and in no time, regular sized bees were negotiating themselves down the crowded bottle neck. Unfortunately, the exit seemed to be much more elusive than the entrance, and they found themselves drinking and swimming in what must be the most decadent way for a bee to go. Unfortunately, the camp-goers weren't quite as happy as the bees. After a few hours the bees were bobbing in the sweet stuff. Off-putting, I know, but this was inspiration to refine a component of Bartendro that needed some attention.
Before Bartendro made its debut, the first comments that people made were about the exposure of booze to the open air. We understood the concern. Even with the tubing hanging down into the bottle, there was still plenty of space for fruit flies (even bees) to find their way to the delightful nectar. Commercial environments, especially bars and restaurants take this very seriously and every night the bottles are capped with plastic wrap or some other type of closure. It's a real sanitation concern and we made sure that we would address it before shipping any of our Kickstarter orders.
Our solution was these plastic bottle toppers that could allow the input tube and level sensor tube to pass through the bottle top and not allow any fruit flies in.
While effective, there were a couple of problems with this design. Sometimes, when catering a small get-together or out of sheer laziness, using the liquid sensor tubing wouldn't be desirable. We often run the bot without the second tube because we're usually standing next to the bot and monitoring it anyway, and we don't want to clean a second tube for every bottle at the end of an event. If we were to use the bottle toppers, we would still be left with a gaping hole for pests to get into. The second problem was more of a logistical and manufacturing one. These parts were quite difficult to source, expensive, and slow to modify.
We needed a better way to close up the bottles whether using one or two tubes. After much experimentation, here's what we came up with:
We found that it was nearly impossible to make a one-size-fits-all type of solution. There was simply too large of a range to make an elegant solution. We created a large spreadsheet and measured as many bottle openings as we could get our hands on. The data showed us that there were four distinct groupings of opening sizes so we decided to design for those. This covered everything from a narrow dessert wine to a wide-mouth cranberry juice bottle. There was a limitation in that some bottles could not accept two tubes to begin with, so we did not design for bottles that were that narrow.
The plugs are slit in a similar way as fountain drink covers, but instead of poking a straw through, you poke your tubing through. We tried many variations of slit length, number of slits and distance between both slit patterns before we reached the optimal design. The hole in the center is the biggest opening at 0.010" and about 0.002" when a tube is inserted. The average fruit fly body is about 0.030". The part is made of food-grade silicone, it is soft and flexible, and will allow the passage of the tubes in either direction hundreds of times without tearing.
We will now be including these new caps with all new bot purchases. In the near term we will likely make them available for purchase individually, and they should range from $3-$5 depending on size.
On September 14th, the Party Robotics team once again took Bartendro out to play with some of the other cocktail robots in San Francisco at the DNA Lounge’s Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge. While we’ve attended other Bar Bot events before, this was our first time competing for prize money. Once again, Bartendro was a crowd favorite serving over 200 drinks to a vivacious crowd. When judging time came we gathered in anticipation. Third place was awarded to Tikibot who delivered world class shaken Mai Tais. Second place went to the always amazing Cosmobot who always serves up our favorite dry ice chilled drinks. First place was given to yours truly, Bartendro!! Many thanks to the DNA Lounge and all of our other fine cocktail robot competitors, keep on doing what you’re doing and dreaming up new ways of getting people drunk.
In other exciting news, The Long Now Foundation
is running a fundraiser to spruce up their literary bar, The Interval in San Francisco. Part of the money raised will go to building the Bespoke Gin Robot. This bot uses Bartendro Dispensers to deliver custom gin infusions using 15 different botanicals. If you love robots, gin, and tasty beverages consider donating
and making their bar even better than it is now. We’ll be sure to let you know when the Bespoke Gin Robot is up and running so you can go try it out!
Hey everyone, I hope you've been enjoying your summer with some tasty beverages. Things have been ebbing and flowing in Party Robotics land over the last couple of months. We ran out of several things some weeks back, but now we're stocked up on everything again, and the best news is that Bartendro Dispensers are now 10 bucks less! Did we change anything about them? Nope! As we've been refining our process, and understanding our costs better, we've decided that we would pass the savings on to you. It might not seem like much, but every little bit helps when you're trying to build a big bot.
For those in the Bay Area, we've also officially signed up for the Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge, happening in about a month at the DNA Lounge in SF. Come root for your favorite robots. The event is on a Sunday from 5pm to Midnight and tickets cost $10 in advance.
Makers, they're a crafty bunch. We scrounge, we forage and we use are expert resourcefulness to bind our projects together, sometimes with a little more hot glue and zip-ties than necessary. As makers, we generally try to accomplish our goals without re-inventing everything. We use the tools and gadgets that our co-conspirators have already developed to build on top of and get to results as quickly as possible. The quicker we fail, the quicker we can move on to the next attempt. The speed with which we've been seeing things evolve lately is pretty phenomenal. When the barriers to innovation (like patents) are removed and others are allowed to use and build on top of the works of others, we see rapidly compounding effects. The open source movement has enabled so many, and has arguably only benefited the general public.
It's important to remember that making things in a vacuum doesn't benefit anyone. We need to share our projects and ideas with the community at large so that those ideas and projects can blossom to their full potential and inspire others. For us, today was a special day where we feel like we've done our small part to give back to the community. Our favorite supplier of hobbyist electronics and components, where we've spent a lot of time and money buying parts to build a lot of our projects, Sparkfun.com has started selling our Bartendro Dispensers to the Maker community. May others take the building blocks we've created and unleash their creativity with them like we've done with the parts of our predecessors.
In the same vein, a huge shout out goes out to the folks behind Arduino and Raspberry Pi, they have enabled us and hundreds of thousands of people to play and create without the fuss of knowing all the low level details. We were at the Maker Faire last weekend and got placed directly in front of the Arduino booth. We've bought and used dozens of Arduinos in the process of developing Bartendro over the years. So it was fantastic to come full-circle and hang out with Massimo Banzi, a co-founder of Arduino and personally thank him for making our lives that much easier. Thank you for getting us this far, our only hope now is that others may say the same about our stuff in the future. So go make come cool stuff and tell us about it!
Since beginning our Kickstarter campaign in March we have had the opportunity to take Bartendro to many events, big and small. At most events we haven’t been allowed to serve drinks, instead loading up the bots with colored waters and serving up mocktails. Even without the visceral experience of consuming a tasty beverage, people are generally quite ecstatic at the thought of having a Bartendro of their very own. On May 18-19, we got to take Bartendro to one of our favorite events of the year, Maker Faire.
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All set up and ready for the crowds[/caption]
Rob and Pierre attended the first Maker Faire back in 2006 with a mere 20,000 other participants. The Faire has grown in leaps and bounds since then with over 100,000 people now attending. Pierre and I joined the other makers in setting up our booth in the expo hall on Friday night, soaking up the spirit of innovation all around. If you’ve never been to a Maker Faire I highly encourage you to find one in your area or come out to the big one in the Bay Area next year, you won’t be disappointed. Intelligent conversations abounded from makers based around the world, booths covering every kind of project you could fathom filled every nook and cranny of the San Mateo County Event Center, there was an electricity in the air and it smelled of innovation.
The next morning we showed up bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to finish setting up. We brought out Bartendro 15, ShotBot, and Water-to-Wine, which was featured in a recent issue of MAKE Magazine. Soon the gates were open and people began flooding in. We poured hundreds of mocktails for thirsty onlookers, explaining all the ins and outs of creating Bartendro. Time and time again people expressed their love for our cocktail dispensing bot. It was a blast showing Bartendro to so many makers!
Unlike several other events we’ve attended we were fortunate to have help at the booth this go round, meaning we actually got to go experience the Faire, talk to other makers, and see their fantastic projects. My favorite was Tapigami, a giant city created entirely of tape by Danny Scheible. The city has taken Danny seven years and over 10,000 hours to create. We got to meet Danny, whose fingers never stopped moving and left us adorned with some of his taped creations. Pierre got a kick out of the Latte Art bot set up next to us which he had print out the Party Robotics logo on a latte.
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Overall, Bartendro was very well received. We did several interviews, being deemed "The most important invention in the history of time" by Anthony at DNews. Bartendro also earned its first ribbon, named MAKE Magazine’s Editor’s Choice. We’re already looking forward to next year!
The Maker movement has truly been amazing to watch unfold over the last decade. Democratized information and tools have enabled widespread innovation and collaboration, creating dozens of hackerspaces and businesses in the wake. We love this and we want to be a part of it.
The issue of intellectual property is a tricky one. The patent was originally intended to protect inventors from large companies. After an individual would spend large amounts of capital for the required initial research and manufacturing, a large company with more capital could came along and create the same thing cheaper or faster, bringing the original inventor to ruins. The patent gave the original inventor a buffer period to create their products and provided a sufficient incentive for the populous to continue to innovate. At least that was the humble goal.
Today, patent struggles between giant corporations have crippling effects with injunctions and overall costs reaching into the billions. Patents now rarely belong to individuals, but to companies with ever increasing portfolios that they arm to wage war with. Is this really how we want to proceed? I've heard rumors of patent reform always being just around the bend, but that will be a slow and laborious process most likely. So what do we do until then? Well, it turns out that the ingredients of ubiquitous information on the internet, thriving online social networks and a slumping job market provide the right mix of time and resources to allow people to collaborate and contribute to projects they like, like never before.
Open source software has been around for decades and is the foundation of a lot of everyday objects...i.e. anything running Linux. It's only recently that we've started seeing open source hardware companies too like Sparkfun and Adafruit. Making software open source is a no-brainer, the costs of creating and shuffling bits is negligible, and the potential for people to add meaningful contributions or the code to provide educational benefit is a net positive for everyone. Hardware on the other hand still requires the moving of atoms: welding, machining, pcb fabrication, assembly, inventory all consume considerable energy and capital. By putting the files "out there" a company risks having their products knocked-off and made cheaper and to lower quality standards. How does a company protect their investment in their IP then?
The models are becoming more clear. A transparent business, with a growing community are fundamental to operating successfully. Also, trademarks and copyrights become much more important. The notion of someone making the same thing but better, or cheaper should be encouraged; this is why we do open source in the first place. Others must just follow the guidelines set forth by the copyright owner. Attribution and share-alike are common ones, meaning the person building on your work needs to also share it and give you credit. The person copying can't use the same trademarked name, and therefore can't steal the brand you've worked to build up too. The brand and community go hand in hand, and this is what people come back for. The support of the community, and to support the original creators.
Is an open source company, more or less lucrative as a business decision? Hard to say for sure, and it depends on the products and industry, but they can definitely both be run successfully. An open source company is likely more fun to run, and engages others to be a part of the process. Customer feedback flows quickly and more directly and qualified contributors don't need to be co-located but could live on the other side of the planet. The pros certainly seem to outweigh the risks, but there are examples of it not always working out like with MakerBot Industries and their recent pulling out of open-source. Is it the right decision for you? Is it the right decision for Party Robotics? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
Some more reading:
A good book on the topic, covering crowdfunding as well:
Makers: The New Industrial Revolution
The Setup February 12 2012, 0 Comments
Designing a cocktail dispensing machine may not sound very difficult, but when one considers that most of the components are not readily available for purchase off the shelf, one must design their own. There are a lot of tools that go into creating a complex electro-mechanical machine like a drink bot. There are solid modeling tools, like SolidWorks and Alibre, CAM tools like SprutCam and the software that runs a the CNC machine, like Mach 3. The CNC machine is a PCNC 1100 made by Tormach, and it is a joy to use. All of the tools need to work in unison to achieve the desired results. These tools cover the basics required for machining parts. When it comes to the electronics, schematic and layout tools are required. In my case, I used EagleCAD because of the existing community and pre-made parts that allowed for fast development time. Boards can be cheaply fabricated in China by Golden Phoenix and modules from Sparkfun and Pololu make development even easier and more modular.
All software tools have their quirks, and when it comes down to it, it is just a matter of patience to learn how to use things in an efficient matter. Having these hardware and software tools in place allows us to iterate over and over tuning and refining until we are happy with the quality and performance of our creations. The tool set allows us to also make a wide array of parts, mechanisms and machines that make people's lives easier and more enjoyable. So, get some tools and start creating!