Wednesday, February 11, 2015

1445 A Flying Lesson From Singapore

Singapore wants to slow the rate of immigration.  And one of the ways it’s doing that is filling what the BBC says is a seven thousand worker shortage in the restaurant business with flying drones instead of people.

You get seated.  The menus are there.  You order from a tablet computer.  Your meal arrives by air.  Drones are a capital investment and a tax deduction.

Employees are neither.

The potential for trouble is astonishing.

How about a mid-air collision between a tray of flounder and a tray of merlot?  Unacceptable!  Everyone knows you need white wine with fish.

But it’s not only mid air collisions between or among drones.

“I was just getting up to go to the men’s room,” said Charles Yu, “when I was clipped by a drone flying extra rice to the next table.”  Yu is 5’8” tall.  The drones are programmed to fly at 6’4”. But if they’re heavily loaded, evidently, they fly lower.  Yu’s injuries were not life threatening.

But the air traffic controllers have to watch out for the flashing “電池電量不足” or “Low Battery” sign on each aerowaiter.  Unfortunately, early production models had trouble with this feature, trouble that the manufacturer, the unfortunately named Lo Fin Aviation Company of Canton says has been corrected in later production.

There are other woes.  Tipping in Singapore restaurants is uncommon.  But they often add 10% to the bill instead.  Who gets the money?

Then, there’s the removing of the food and drink from the robots and placing it before the customers. The drones don’t just plop stuff down on the table.  A human must remove things from the hover-craft and know which diner gets which dishes.

It’s easier than it sounds because Singapore restaurants, as in much of Asia place bowls or plates on tables and people take a little from here and a little from there.

But the electronic thingies don’t talk.  So the next generation of order tablets will have to be able to tell customers “no problem,” which is waiter-ese for either “thank you” or “yes.”

And the drones themselves will hover at tableside after a given length of time and say “may I get these out of your way?” And “Anyone save enough room for dessert?”

And if your order is incorrect, will you have to go the baggage claim area to fill out the paperwork?

Maybe they should re-think their immigration policy.


--By now you know NBC suspended Brian Williams without pay for six months because of verbal selfies that were photoshopped.  We’ll take a second look down the road.  Meantime, Lester Holt is a good solid newsman and worth your eyes and your time.

--Manhattan condo for sale. $28 million.  It belonged to Joan Rivers and is decorated like a 19th Century French house of ill repute.

--Would we care about the death of Kayla Mueller of Arizona if she were a swarthy complected and bearded young man from Detroit? Probably not, no matter the goodness of his intentions in or around the self- named fake country of ISIS.  Obama promises to bring her murders to justice, which presupposes there’s an actual justice system there.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2015

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