In 1983, a Chinese fast-food restaurant in Pasadena, California hired a curious-looking pair of servers: two robots named Tanbo R-1 and Tanbo R-2.
At 4.5 feet tall and 180 pounds, the robots would scoot around; bringing trays of chow mein, spareribs and fortune cookies to customers’ tables.
Shayne Hayashi, the owner of Two Panda Deli, first put the robots to work in 1983. Each Japanese-built robot purportedly cost $20,000 (about $45,000 adjusted for inflation) but were prone to dropping things and letting radio interference make them go a bit haywire. When they worked, they were a hit, telling jokes and delivering food to customers who were assured that this would be the future of the restaurant business.