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Heard the one about the Cyber-Pub?

Futurologists set their sights on drinking dens

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Futurologists are predicting that wireless technology could soon make its way into that most hallowed of journalistic haunts: the Pub.

UK tabloid, The Sun has been running a series of crystal-ball-gazing features, trying to work out what life will be like in ten or twenty years time. According to the paper, the days of smoky, dark dens of drinking are numbered, and the news is bad.

There will be virtual bar staff, ordering your drinks from a console at your table or from a WAP phone. Then, perhaps most horrifyingly, there will be virtual karaoke duets with the original stars, in hologram form of course.

And it gets sillier.

The feature is illustrated with an impression of what this cyber bar might look like. Drinks are being served by a robot which, the caption says, will "look directly into your eyes, calculate exactly what you want to drink, pour it and add it to your bill."

Even if you willingly suspend your disbelief for long enough to cope with psychic robots, can you think of a worse place to set up a large amount of expensive technology that in a venue specifically designed for people to consume vast quantities of alcohol. Neither could we.

However, some people seem to be taking the idea rather more seriously.

Apparently Whitbread pubs have already started to install tabletop computers for customers to use to order drinks, and in Norway there is a system where prices fluctuate according to demand, much like the stock market.

And it seems you will not even be safe when nursing a hangover. Microsoft and Starbucks have signed a deal today that will see net access points in Starbucks coffee shops, connected via MobileStar Network's wireless network.

The companies said that customers would be able to access local information about arts and entertainment, or go shopping from the terminals.

The consensus at Vulture Central is that what a pub should have is beams, smoke and ale. None of this cyber nonsense. When informed of the existence of cyber pubs, one reporter became quite distraught and had to be sedated.

He recovered however when he heard about electronically ordered e-Ale. "What a combination," he said. "Where can I get some?" ®

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