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How an AI-powered robot could upend wine storage (for those who can afford it)

A new tech company, WineCab, is using software to improve wine management, storing wine and offering tips on what kind of wine to try next. Here’s how it works.

The 11-foot WineCab AI-powered sommelier that stores, manages, and selects your wine for you.  

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The 11-foot WineCab AI-powered sommelier that stores, manages, and selects your wine for you.  

Image: Wine Cab

Drinking wine has been a regular activity for many of us–especially now, during our COVID-era, while we’re stranded at home. Now, the age-old wine industry is getting an artificial intelligence (AI)-facelift: WineCab, a new startup, has created an robotic system for wine collectors and connoisseurs. 

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The product, a high-tech wine storage wall, “works as an intelligent unit that gives serving suggestions,” while “helping the owner organize and maintain their wine collection. It’s marketed as something that can “reinvent the need for a traditional cellar, taking ‘smart home’ to a level never before seen.” In other words, it acts as your personal AI sommelier (that is, a wine waiter or steward) in the digital age. 

SEE: More robot and robotic system deployments expected across industries (TechRepublic Premium)

WineCab boasts it provides a sophisticated wine management system, one that uses AI for selection advice, along things like temperature control, security settings, and a high-speed robotic arm that grabs and provides your vino of choice. 

Say you are having seared salmon and asparagus for dinner. The program then offers-up, say, the best chilled pinot noir for the pairing (the system moderates the temperature and humidity for every single bottle, and you never have to open a door).    

Who needs a wine cellar when you can have a 15-foot WineCab? If you have about $250K to spend. 

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Who needs a wine cellar when you can have a 15-foot WineCab? If you have about $250K to spend. 

Image: WineCab

More specifically, WineCab allows owners to store around 600 bottles of wine in a compact unit—with temperature and humidity control—while sorted by Delectable, an AI-based software that provides, among other things, ratings and descriptions of a bottle of wine in your collection. 

Mark Chaney, founder and CEO of WineCab.

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Mark Chaney, founder and CEO of WineCab.

Image: WineCab

With the robotic arm, it was manufactured to load, scan, and provide bottles in a matter of moments. According to WineCab, the arm consists of three vision-assist cameras, and the storage unit boosts things like facial recognition security—one that prevents users from accessing certain wines that are deemed important by the owner, for instance. 

WineCab comes in several models—a six foot one, along with others that are 11 feet and 15 feet—but it does come with a hefty price: The units start at $179,000 (with the largest one running around $249,900). 

TechRepublic talked to founder and CEO of WineCab, Mark Chaney, about why it’s been so difficult to bring robotic arms, like the one WineCab uses, into the home.

“You don’t see many robots in homes, and 99% or so of them are in factories or processing plants. “That is one reason I created [WineCab].” One issue, he added “is that to program a robot can cost more than buying a robot.” To combat this, he said he and his company wrote software that doesn’t require much programming. For his robot arm, it has something called a “remote diagnostics control,” which has a camera, and his company can figure out issues by using “a simple joystick and fix [problems] remotely.” 

It also comes with apps that allow you to control the robot arm, say while on vacation, to show and display a bottle of wine of yours via the cameras (if you were looking to show off something in your collection). And it just has some fun features, such as dusting your wine bottles off. 

WineCab is now working on adding elements for the wired wine storage, such as speakers that will play music that correlates to the wine you choose.

In the end, Chaney said people are buying the AI-run storage system because of its interaction capabilities—he describes it as being akin to “performance art.” A fun toy to show off at home, whether hosting a virtual wine tasting or throwing a dinner party with other humans around. 

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