India-made robots chat up diners at Hyderabad restaurant

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Chitti blinks her eyes, manoeuvres around cautiously and brings your food to the table. At Chitti In Town, a restaurant in Dilsukhnagar here, the excitement of diners, children, and adults alike is palpable. Chitti In Town is a robot-integrated multi-cuisine restaurant, where sensor-equipped robots draped in saris deliver food to diners at the tables and interact with them by shaking hands.

These robots make children feel they are a part of a movie like Wall-E or meeting a distant cousin of Chappie. All the robots are made in Hyderabad by HITEC City-based Vistan NextGen’s manufacturing unit. Currently, they use fibre glass for the body and are constructed manually in the manufacturing unit.

The robot at Chitti in town

The robot at Chitti in town

Robot restaurants have made homes in other cities too — Robots in Chennai opened in 2017 while Robot Restaurant was started in 2019 in Bengaluru with Android-run robots. Hyderabad, too, has Robo Kitchen in Jubilee Hills.

Chitti In Town, co-owned by Ganesh Reddy, Teja Kiran Srikanth and Padmaja Goud, has five autonomous robots delivering food and one interactive robot named MAiRA.

Restaurant robots leverage cognitive technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning as well as robotics with IoT (Internet of Things). The interactive robot comes integrated with Alexa and Google Home, and is programmed with six basic interactive chatlines such as ‘What is your name?’, ‘How are you?’ and ‘Where do you stay?’.

Robots from Hyderabad

MAiRA is a multi-sensing intelligent robotic assistant also manufactured by Vistan NextGen. The interactive robots manufactured by the company are programmed to see, feel, and hear its surroundings so they they can rapidly adapt to whatever environment they are placed in, says Ram Raju Singam of Vistan NextGen. Ram Singam took close to 18 months to roll out robots from his production unit in Kukatpally.

He says since the robots are made and put together by hand, it is slowing down production time. “The other deterrent was the skill gap. We also had to get our team trained to be able to manufacture robots in our factory. Up to 80% of the robots are made in our factories. We only import intelligent chips from abroad,” he adds.

This brings down cost of the robots by one-fourth as against those imported from China. “Since these robots are made in India, we can also offer maintenance and repair when needed,” reasons Singam.

The company will soon be switching to a fully automated manufacturing process that will use thermoforming (the process of heating thermoplastic sheet to its softening point so that it be moulded) to manufacture the robots.

Ram Singham has now upgraded his machines and made use of fully automated machines to manufacture robots using ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a thermoplastic polymer) and a thermoforming machine. The demand for robots is such that Ram Singam and his team are working to meet demand across India, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Within India, Singam says he has got orders from places like Tirupati and Warangal, where robot-integrated restaurants are coming up.

“Real estate companies are looking at integrating robots for home tours for clients, too. The robots will be programmed with a combination of information that is mostly asked by buyers when they are scouting to buy an apartment. This will help cut down mundane tasks that are usually given to the marketing teams,” he says of the future of robots made in Hyderabad.

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