Mosul glides into the future with robot waiters

Former ISIS stronghold in Iraq steps free of its war-ravaged past

From the rubble of Iraq's war-ravaged city of Mosul comes the sight of androids gliding back and forth in a restaurant to serve an amused clientele.

“Welcome. We wish you a good time in our restaurant. We would be happy to have your opinion on the quality of the service,” chime the automated attendants, red eyes blinking out from their shiny blue and white exteriors.

“On television, you see robots and touchscreen tables in the UAE, Spain and Japan,” said Rami Chkib Abdelrahman, proud owner of the White Fox, which opened in June.

“I'm trying to bring these ideas to Mosul.”

The futuristic servers are the result of technology developed in the northern city, a former ISIS stronghold.

“We saw the concept on social media in more than one restaurant,” said Mr Abdelrahman, a dentist by profession.

Voyage to space

The northern metropolis of Mosul, which was occupied by ISIS between 2014 and 2017, still bears the scars of war.

But at dinnertime, patrons of the restaurant, which is packed every night, can escape from the city on a voyage through space.

A mural of an astronaut floating across the wall sets the scene and views of Earth and other planets as seen from space give customers the sense of peering out through the portholes of a spaceship.

The ceilings are speckled with glowing constellations.

But the star attractions are the two androids, each sporting a scarf and black beret, shuttling back and forth across the restaurant on rails to deliver orders.

As they approach, smartphones come out and children promptly line up next to them for a souvenir snapshot.

Time for a selfie

The robots are imported, Mr Abdelrahman said, but did not reveal the source. Everything in the restaurant is digital, he said, including the 15 touchscreen tables with built-in menus.

A team from the University of Mosul's department of mechatronics – integrating several fields of engineering as well as robotics – was in charge of programming and connected a network and server to the restaurant.

But human beings have not been completely replaced by machines.

Four young waiters are kept busy taking dishes from the robots' trays and placing them on the tables.

Bashar Mahmud, 50, having dinner with his wife, was won over. He took a selfie, smiling broadly.

“I've travelled abroad and I've never seen anything like this, not in Turkey, Jordan or Saudi Arabia,” the blacksmith said.

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 11:27 AM
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