Wireless Service Bell Button

I came across a curious mediated interaction the other day over on boingboing.net. It’s a restaurant device that looks like a cross between a garage door opener and a Nintendo Wii. There are four buttons with icons for summoning the waiter:

Waiter, Drink, Money (bill), and Chopsticks (food). Each button produced a different tone, which emanated from a speaker in the kitchen. When I pressed the drink button, the waiter appeared in seconds holding a pitcher of ice water. When I pressed the Money button, he came right out with the check.

Like the Brazilian restaurant signal I wrote about earlier this year this strikes me as odd. I’ve never encountered this particular four button setup here in the states, but apparently it’s much more common in Asia. It’s a little like daintily ringing a bell to summon the butler or maid in western cultures.

What I think rubs me the wrong way is the technological mediation of a traditional human-to-human encounter. Treating the waiter as some kind of automat who responds with the touch of a button rather than a human gesture.

  1. Isn’t summoning a flight attendant with the button available on flights a similar interaction? Though the cramped space on flights and difficulty to monitor passenger requirements might make that a convenience.

  2. Jeff

    That occurred to me while I was writing the post. Another example is in large warehouse stores that provide a button or phone to request help. Not sure why I react differently to those situations. Any rationalization is suspect at this point, but maybe you’re on to something regarding the nature of the environment playing a factor.

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