From a barista to a masseuse, autonomous robots are changing the way we live, work and play. Here are some robotic innovations that exist in our country

If you've noticed a rise in the number of robots around you lately, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic, you weren't imagining things. They have become quite a common sight, covering a multitude of sectors from F&B to health and hygiene, to keep citizens safe and take on mundane tasks to alleviate our everyday stresses.

As a result, embracing robotic technology and automation has kept the city-state on track to achieve its ambition of becoming a technologically advanced smart nation. In fact, Singapore has become the second country to have the highest robot density in the world, trailing slightly behind South Korea. Here, we spotlight four robotic innovations you may have witnessed in the past year.

Automated barista

Powered by robotics and artificial intelligence, the team of “ratiologists” at Ratio Café and Lounge will brew your cup of joe, right down to your preferred number of espresso shots, in under one minute. And get this: the cafe transforms into a bar by night. There are over 50 fully customisable coffee—Nanyang and speciality coffee included— and cocktail selections to choose from.

All you need to do is key in your order on the Ratio app or self‑ordering kiosk in‑store and the information will be stored for future reference. Ratio founder Gavin Pathross explains, “Robots and AI are not here to replace the human touch. Instead, the human‑centric tech frees us from repetitive work. This way, we can do what humans do best—communicate and have great conversations [with our guests].”

National Gallery Singapore's first robot museum guide

One of the best ways to enhance your museum experience is through a docent tour. As part of its ongoing bid to become a smart museum, the National Gallery Singapore piloted its first autonomous robot guide, Temi, in September last year. Developed by a US-based startup of the same name and helmed by Israeli robotics expert Yossi Wolf, the one-metre‑tall robot offers visitors a 20-minute on-demand physically guided audio tour of a series of four artworks on people and portraits at the DBS Singapore Gallery 1.

(Related: 8 of the Most Beautiful Museums in Asia)

Meet Emma, the robotic masseuse

Singapore-based startup AiTreat takes a modern approach on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with its robotic masseuse Emma, or short for expert manipulative massage automation. Launched in 2017, the robot mimics the action of a human palm and thumb to replicate the traditional Chinese therapeutic massage tui na strokes, which targets various acupoints.

And this is according to the prescription of a qualified TCM physician or physiotherapist, who keys it in on to Emma’s touchscreen interface. The bot is equipped with advanced sensors to measure the stiffness of the patient’s muscles and will log all data into a server where artificial intelligence is used to compute the exact pressure that needs to be delivered during the treatment process.

AiTreat’s founder Albert Zhang says: “With Emma, we can now offer a longer therapy session for patients while reducing the cost of treatment. The human therapist is then free to focus on other areas which Emma can’t attend to at the moment.

(Related: The Best Alternative Wellness Treatments to Try in Singapore)

The LeoBot cleaning crew

The next time you are at Jewel Changi Airport or National Gallery Singapore, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the LeoBots. The cleaning crew of autonomous robots, which bagged top honours at the Amsterdam Innovation Award this year, offer essential services such as scrubbing (LeoScrub), mopping (LeoMop) and vacuuming (LeoVac), as well as moving heavy items (LeoPull). The brainchild of Singapore-based robotics company LionsBot International, the bots are highly productive and designed to be approachable and appealing. So far, there are over 60 LeoBots and LeoRays (its UVC disinfection counterparts) being deployed across Singapore to assist their human counterparts.

By the numbers


The number of industrial robots in Singapore per 10,000 employees. The country is only second behind South Korea, the leader in automation adoption, with 710 robots, according to the World Economic Forum


The increase in enquiries about LionsBot International’s cleaning and disinfection robots during the pandemic