Tech on the Roof

Meet Cecilia - the virtual bartender for physical events

At Calcalist’s Tech on the Roof event, CTech met with a robot who pours more than 100 drinks per hour

James Spiro 11:0821.04.21

In-person events are opening up in Israel and CTech has already had a hot date. Cecilia, a new virtual bartender built by GKI Group, made one of her first appearances since her launch in February. Blending a futuristic design, large physical hardware, and a concoction of liquors underneath her, she was ready to serve the hundreds of Israeli CEOs, venture capitalists, and founders of some of the biggest companies in the country at Tech on the Roof in Jaffa.


“Our dream was to make a robotic bartender,” explained Dor Avrahami, Head of Product Development at GKI Group and one of Cecilia’s main architects, speaking ahead of the event. “The idea behind making a robot you could speak with to make cocktails thrilled us. It’s in the DNA of GKI to make a product like this… the combination of technology and alcohol is something we are excited about.”


Cecilia serves a thirsty attendant at Calcalist's Tech on the Roof event. photo: Aviv Gotlib Cecilia serves a thirsty attendant at Calcalist's Tech on the Roof event. photo: Aviv Gotlib


Cecilia, who was built by the official company under GKI, stands at around eight feet tall and stores liquors and juices underneath her. Using a microphone and voice-recognition technology, party-goers can speak directly to her to order a cocktail - something she quickly prepares in around 30 seconds. Since she is readily available to be rented at occasions or events - perfect for something like Tech on the Roof - her interface and language can be changed and personalized for the specific occasion to include drinks, branding, and company messaging. She can even be dressed in a company uniform.


“Hi Cecilia, what would you recommend?” CTech asked her after approaching the bar. After one or two requests to repeat the question, she then proceeded to list some of the tailored cocktails that were designed for the specific event. It was unclear if the noise impacted her understanding of the initial request or whether she wasn’t familiar with thick British accents. Either way, both bartender and patron relaxed and proceeded with the natural conversation without further problems.


CTech chose a smokey whiskey-based cocktail from the choice that appears on an LED touch screen below her. Since this was a tech event, after all, the name was ‘SPACtacular’. It sounded like something that would fit right in at an event that hosted CEOs and VCs from some of Israel’s unicorn companies. Other options included ‘Gin & Tech’, ‘Ruby on Rocks’, and ‘FruitStrap’.


“I’m sorry, we are out of stock,” she informed us.


There was a pause. The GKI Group staff looked around. CTech didn’t know what to do.


“Only kidding,” Cecilia said, and then laughs. In a few moments, the smokey drink appeared below her ready to be consumed. Once the drink is taken from beneath her, another patron can place his/her glass down and the process is repeated. Depending on the socializing, she can proceed to pour 120 drinks in an hour.


Cecilia stands at around 8 feet tall. Photo: GKI Group Cecilia stands at around 8 feet tall. Photo: GKI Group


“She can be spicy,” said GKI’s Nir Cohen Paraira, who is Director of Marketing. “That really equals our main idea of the name Cecilia, who was one of the most famous cocktail women in the history of America.” He’s referring to Mary Louise Cecilia ‘Texas’ Guinan, the actress, producer, and entertainer from the early 1900s known for running speakeasy bars and nightclubs in the U.S during prohibition. “She was strong, influential, and a pioneer, and so is Cecilia,” said the company in a statement.


Cecilia’s official launch was on February 24th - World Bartender Day - and she will soon be deployed across the U.S and Europe once venues open up again and pilots are completed. Fleets of Celicila can be rented for events like Tech on the Roof, or she can be purchased and stand as a regular feature in airports, hotels, or stadiums. Her cost depends on whether she is needed on an hourly or daily basis, and how many of her are needed.


The concept of a virtual bartender was born from GKI Group, a technology company that develops technology products and innovative solutions. One of its first projects was Israel’s Milk and Honey Distillery, making it the first and largest whiskey distillery in the country. The company has 25 people (50 if you include the team at Milk and Honey) made up of engineers, product managers, marketing, and business development professionals who work on making the ideas come to life, so to speak.


“I think this is what engineers aspire to, to make an idea happen and to just enjoy it,” said Avrahami. “I’m super excited and thrilled.”


According to Avrahami and Paraira, she is ready for mass production and businesses. Pilots of her service will be deployed across the U.S in the summer with potential customers including hotels, casinos, and airports. “I’m really looking forward to the future of Cecilia,” added Avrahami.