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Monday, November 28, 2022

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Alexa-Powered Side Table Mixes Drinks on Command

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and sometimes you just want to stay at home and drink in silence. There’s no judgment here, but a night in doesn’t mean you have to serve yourself, not when a bit of over-the-top engineering can turn a side table and your favorite voice assistant into a passable bartender.

Bartending was long ago added to the list of jobs that robots could one day take over, but while we’re not quite at the point where Boston Dynamics’ ATLAS is tossing shakers through the air like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, you can already semi-automate your libations. For the engineering-challenged, there’s devices like Black+Decker’s Bev, which simply asks you to preload five different bottles of liquor and feed it an ingredient-filled Keurig-like capsule whenever you feel like knocking one back.

For those handy with a soldering iron and coding, there’s no shortage of tutorials online for building a Raspberry Pi-powered cocktail machine that can get you inebriated at the push of a button. That’s the route the YouTube channel Audax took, but they wanted something a bit fancier than a giant black box that dispenses booze, and didn’t want to have to manually press buttons like some kind of pauper.

Can Alexa/Siri Be Your Bartender?

Taking advantage of Amazon Alexa’s custom skills, which allow developers to create their own voice-activated routines, Audax programmed the smart assistant to recognize voice requests for four different drinks. The video is a little light on the hardware details, but the folks at Hackster.io managed to spot a few components, including an Arduino Mega 2560 development board that controls pumping mechanisms, and servos that raise and lower dispenser nozzles.

Although the guts of the drink dispensing machine are left exposed through a window with some fancy LED lighting, the contraption is camouflaged as a side table, and features a 3D-printed elevator that lowers a glass from the table’s surface, fills it up with the requested spirits, and raises back up again. Is it completely autonomous? Obviously not, but it’s the added flair that makes us wish Amazon spent its time developing Alexa gadgets like this, instead of robots that can’t even carry a glass.

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