July 29, 2009

Restaurant Self-Service via Bluetooth

Ordering by your table in Inamo in London (via Bluetooth). Nice video shows the complete process for self-ordering at your table.

Imagine a restaurant where you can browse food and drink at your table and place your order – all without having to get up or wait for a waiter.

That's Inamo, a swish Oriental restaurant and bar in the heart of London's Soho. TechRadar dropped in for a look.

The Flash-based 'interactive ordering system' uses a Bluetooth-linked trackpad embedded in the table, and enables you to look through a menu which is projected from a hood above.

The trackpad is literally the only thing on the table that isn't the usual dining paraphernalia like plates and chopsticks; there's no embedded screen or Microsoft Surface-type tech, it's all projected.

As well as an ordering system for food and drink, Inamo also has simple games such as Battleships to play against your dining partners as well as the ability to change the look of your table – you can change the virtual tablecloth every five minutes or keep the same theme for the rest of your meal. You can choose bright patterns or even a picture of space.

Tables are activated by your server when you are seated.

When TechRadar visited the venue it was early evening, but we were soon served after placing our journalist's special meal of cocktails and beer. The ordering experience may seem like just another part of the evening, but it's that it doesn't jar while you're doing it which is the real triumph.

reelance software architect Bernie Sumption relays how the system was created on his blog at BernieCode.com. The real challenge was that the system had to let the diners (two per projected table) interact at the same time. As Bernie says, that's a problem.

"You see, computers only have one mouse pointer. Even if you plug two mice into a PC, Windows will prevent them showing up as two devices and instead merge their input streams so that they both appear to applications as a single virtual device."

Mouse-driven applications are generally simple to write because the mouse stack is already in place and these detect when events take place, such as when the mouse has clicked a button or hovered over something active. However, it couldn't be the same for the Inamo tables.

Video on YouTube

"The only option was a ground-up re-implementation of a mouse stack that takes data from our Bluetooth trackpads, converts it into a coordinate stream, feeds it into Flash and performs collision detection," explains Bernie.

Posted by staff at July 29, 2009 12:36 PM