By Ivonne Yee-Amor
February 2, 2022 at 3:00pm

Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management continues to address pandemic-imposed challenges like labor shortages by introducing its latest teaching tool – Cecilia.ai, the world's first robotic, interactive bartender that offers the potential of round-the-clock service.

Cecilia was created in Israel and comes straight from its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to FIU's Bacardi Center of Excellence. Cecilia’s 3D animated avatar technology is powered by artificial intelligence and voice recognition technologies. Cecilia is automatic and completely contactless. At the Chaplin School, she will be a teaching tool for students.

“As an educational partner, Cecilia encourages our students and future trade leaders to think out of the box in terms of added value service scenarios,” said Brian Connors, director of FIU's Bacardi Center of Excellence, a one-of-a-kind educational partnership between the FIU hospitality school and Bacardi USA. “A machine can never replace human interaction, but this groundbreaking technology can offer a customizable and interactive solution when a human bartender is either not practical or possible. It also provides a critical teaching moment on customer preferences, branding possibilities, and contactless service alternatives.”

Cecilia can make a delicious cocktail crafted by the school's award-winning student club, Bartender's Guild at FIU, but she also can gather and analyze critical marketing data, and create unique, interactive experiences. Cecilia is seven feet tall, about the size of an arcade machine. Cecilia can tell jokes, guide customers through a menu and recommend the best drinks for them. In addition, customers can tell her which cocktail they like or can order it themselves by pressing a touchscreen. The cocktail is either pre-mixed or mixed in the machine and dispensed into a glass. She can serve 120 cocktails per hour and doesn't need to take breaks.

"We're facing a worker shortage like never before, which is why, as educators of the world's future hospitality leaders, we must be innovative, imaginative, and open to new and sustainable ways of teaching our students and interacting with customers," said Michael Cheng, dean of the Chaplin School.

Cecilia's rollout is part of FIU’s Bacardi Center of Excellence, which offers the only spirits management curriculum of its kind in the country. It was established in February 2020 after a $5 million gift from Bacardi USA to create a unique educational program tailored for the spirits industry. Cecilia is the latest in a long list of the center's innovative ideas, including its online and on demand teaching module Bacardi Teach, student competition Bar Project 2021, guest speaker series Bacardi Talks, and podcast, "2 Barstools and a Knife."