We’ve already seen robots that get you a beer and coffee machines that start brewing when you text. Now, those two glorious ideas are coming together with the Texterator, a machine that gets you a beer when you text it. Maybe the days of struggling to get the bartender’s attention are finally behind us.
Zipwhip’s Texterator, a fun side project for the texting technology company, debuted last week at the GeekWire 5th Anniversary Bash — pouring beers for attendees who didn’t want to wait for the lines at the bar. Attendees could text “Beer” to a special number to claim their spot in line. Then, the robot would text back letting them know when the beer was being poured so they could head over and pick it up.
But how do you know which beer is yours? That’s where the laser comes in, of course. After pouring, the robot laser-etches the last four digits of your phone number into the red Solo cup. Want a second beer? Texterator lets you know if you’re drinking too fast or have had too many with its smart relies.
“It doesn’t know a lot of words yet,” said Zipwhip CEO and Texterator co-creator John Lauer at the event. “But we’ll probably try and teach it more off of the feedback tonight’s inbound text.”
The Texterator is a combination of Lauer’s love of robots and his company’s product, which lets businesses add texting abilities to their existing phone numbers. The text-enabled beer bot is a follow-up to company’s earlier “Textspresso” machine.
While users like BMW Seattle and Allstate Insurance use Zipwhip’s technology to augment customer service, Lauer wanted to use his service for more playful purposes for the demo at the GeekWire Bash, where the company was a sponsor.
But the road to the Bash wasn’t exactly smooth. Zipwhip chief marketing officer John Larson was supposed to pick up the finished Texterator to take to the event, but showed up to a floor covered in an jumble of electronics.
“Parts of the machine have yet to be created, and the wiring of circuit boards was only half baked,” Larson said. “‘Testing’ was about 10% completed.”
He said Lauer had spent the night with a robotics engineer who was helping them on the project, hoping to get things together in time for the debut. While the idea was solid and the code was coming together, the final assembly was far from complete. As you can see in the video below, the laser used to etch your number in your cup spent a while just shooting out across the room.
After finally getting all the custom parts together, the Zipwhip team showed up at the Bash, just a few hours late. Attendees gathered around, hoping to see the beer-serving robot in action.
“If this works, that’s better than Amazon Prime,” attendee Loren O’Laughlin said as the team started testing.
The initial runs of the Texterator at the GeekWire Bash weren’t exactly smooth—the cups didn’t rotate a first, then the laser burned a hole through the cups on a subsequent run. But by the end of the night, the Texterator was slinging beers almost as fast as people were texting it.
But the Texterator’s ambitions extend beyond the GeekWire Bash. While it’ll serve up beers at the office happy hours, Zipwhip is also hoping to get it on TV and to take it around to other events.
And if you’re looking to build your own Texterator, Zipwhip made the source code available on GitHub for beer enthusiasts who want their own at-home beer robot. Builders will need a variety of motors and sensors, and they’ll need to machine some custom parts, but it’s all worth it if you can send a text to your keg as you pull into the driveway so you can have a beer waiting for you when you step inside.
Ain’t the future great?