DataSparQ’s AI Bartender Stops People Cutting in Line

Facial recognition technology is used to let people know who is next to be served and how long they'll have to wait.

08.08.2019 | by Christy Romer
Photo by DataSparq
Photo by DataSparq

There are few things more frustrating that waiting patiently at a bar, only for someone rowdier, taller or more aesthetically pleasing to barge forward and be served first. It’s annoying for the customers, for bartenders, for landlords. According to data science company DataSparQ, the experience is apparently so irritating that three in four Brits have left busy bars after failing to get served.

So DataSparQ did what tech companies do best: It found a way of using AI and machine learning to solve the problem.

The AI-powered bar, which works with a webcam and a large, real-time video screen, uses facial recognition technology to work out who is standing at the bar and how long they’ve been there. Each new arrival is given a number, which customers can see hovering above their head on the screen, and an estimated wait time before being served.

This “intelligently virtual” queue lets bartender know who is really next, rather than having to rely on an increasingly hazy memory — or the goodwill of customers.

In addition, the tech prompts anyone who looks to be under the age of 25 is to get their ID ready for inspection, to make the process of age verification much more streamlined.

“This is a problem we’re all familiar with. It’s stressful: an unfair queuing system at the bar,” explains John Wyllie, Managing Director of DataSparQ, in a video.

He continued: “The A.I. Bar ensures it’s a hassle free, first come, first served system that makes ordering drinks more convenient for both drinkers and bar staff alike.”

“If I go out of shot, turn around to speak to a friend, tie my shoelace or go back to the table to confirm the order, your face is remembered for a short period of time.”

The software was trialled at London bar 5cc harrild & Sons. Engadget quotes one bartender who said the regulars were “a bit sceptical at first,” but committed to the idea once they saw it work. “It enables us to maximise our pouring potential and cuts out the need for sharp elbows when it’s busy,” they add.

In a nod to data concerns, DataSparQ promises user data will be deleted at the end of every night.

The tech, which will hopefully be rolled out nationally in pubs and even music venues over the next 12 months, can reportedly save queueing time in the UK equivalent to pouring 78 million pints — and can be used to help bar managers optimise staffing requirements during peak times.

The AI Bar will cost landlords £199 a month, and hopes to reverse the “current epidemic” of pub closures: the company quotes research by the UK-based Campaign for Real Ale, which concluded that an average of 14 pubs are closing every week.

The team is now working on an expansion through a system for automatic re-ordering, and for what it calls a “FaceTab” — allowing permitting people with pre-approved faces to order drinks on a tab.

DataSparQ’s tech follows the creation of an intelligent retention system, used by a health club to intervene early with customers likely to end their memberships, and an intelligent fraud detection system, which sorted through legitimate and illegitimate claims to save insurance companies an estimated £32m per year on claims.

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