A wave of ubiquitous computing is sweeping the world, with incredible inventions like touch-screen tabletops hitting restaurants and bars, allowing for waiterless ordering with interactive menus, or sheer entertainment.
The Adour restaurant in NYC's St. Regis hotel opens tomorrow and will offer an interactive wine bar with a touchable tasting menu. In addition to letting patrons select foods themselves, the bar's goatskin surface acts as a virtual sommelier. Users select whether they would like red or white, then the next menu opens, allowing them to choose a country, then region then the specific type of wine.
"This is the first time in my experience that the designer thinks about the service of wine during the design [of the restaurant]," says Thomas Combescot, 29, the wine director and sommelier of Adour. "Restaurants usually think about staff and the maitre d's. When the restaurant is built, the sommelier and his team come with their buckets and decanters and there's never space." Problem solved.
Remember the waiterless bar in Germany? Another line of restaurants will open later this year called uWink, launched by Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari. They will also offer touch-screen tables to allow for dining without servers. Customers will peruse the virtual menu on their tables, and place the order without having to say a word. They opened a pilot uWink in the Westfield Promenade in California in October 2006, and although the reviews were so-so, they're confident to go ahead with the project, with the next restaurant set to open this year in Hollywood.
Just this weekend I got to check out my first touch-screen surface at Circa, a club in Toronto. Actually, it wasn't even touch-screen, it was heat-sensitive so even by waving my hands over the surface, the tables would light up in different colors. Not quite the Microsoft Surface, but fun nonetheless.