We’ve seen machines that can drive cars, diagnose complex diseases and put on spectacular Super Bowl light shows, but what about brewing up a delicious cup of coffee? Time to meet the incredible robot barista at Cafe X. To be clear, Cafe X isn’t exactly a typical cafe with tons of wannabe novelists glancing around hoping to meet that special somebody. Cafe X is a kiosk at the Metreon Shopping Center in San Francisco (there’s also one in Hong Kong) with a robot behind glass that prepares coffee on demand. Ordering is simple: Tell the Cafe X barista what you want through its app or an iPad located at the kiosk. Serving coffee from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters and Peet’s, Cafe X’s robot barista can prepare several drinks at the same time with each drink often taking less than 30 seconds to prepare. After customers tell the robot their specifications, like how much caramel to put in a latte, the machine texts users a four digit code they can use to open a hatch and receive their drink.
The implications of technology like this is enormous. A robot barista can dramatically change the way we order coffee; rather than waiting in long lines for human workers to personally prepare various drinks under pressure, Cafe X streamlines the entire process. For customers, there’s no need to even be friendly to anyone; just walk over, order and head out with a fresh cup of coffee in hand. Not bad for those of us who need a cup of coffee before we can even remotely begin interacting with anyone.
The idea is for Cafe X to exist in busy terminals, where regular customers can order in advance on their phones. Instead of standing in long lines, people are able to make a quick stop by the kiosk, grab a freshly made cup of coffee and go. While it’s fun to watch the robotic arm prepare coffee, the most efficient and exciting potential of machines like these are for people to arrive with their orders ready before they even get there. It’s all about rapid, automated tech doing what it needs to do as seamlessly and affordably as possible.
Cafe X’s prices are pretty reasonable too, with coffees starting at just $2.25 for an 8 oz cup, cheaper than typical prices for a cup of coffee in San Francisco. The venture is backed by $5 million in VC funding with help from heavy hitters like Jason Calacanis and The Thiel Foundation.
When this machine gets to work, it’s hard not to start wondering if robots could be capable of taking on additional complex tasks like food or bartending. Basically anything where there’s a need for speed, precision and serving many customers simultaneously. Talking to Wired, Cafe X founder and CEO Henry Hu explains how this kind of automation could be seen across the entire food industry noting that “cafes are not just coffee.”
According to Cafe X, this kind of automation coupled with its capacity to learn allows the company to focus its energy on the quality of the coffee they serve. They explain on their web site, “The Cafe X system is designed for humans and robots to collaborate. Smart robotics and machine learning working autonomously allows our operations team to focus on sourcing and using fresh ingredients, maintaining extremely high hygiene standards, and ensuring a great customer experience with every single interaction.” With machines and automation starting to take on jobs of all kinds, it looks like a bright future ahead for robots (and coffee lovers) at least.