Trendy coffee roasters including Intelligentsia, Ritual, and Equator have partnered with Café X Technologies to create a $US25,000 ($AU33,500) robot barista, CNBC reports. The robot, which operates as the sole barista in a San Francisco café, can make any drink you would expect at a standard trendy coffee shop, including espressos, flat whites, and cortados.
“I don’t see the robot revolution as a problem,” 24-year-old inventor Henry Hu told CNBC. “The idea isn’t to scare you or harm you in any way. The point is to get you your coffee as quickly and deliciously as possible.”
Prices at Café X are low, with most drinks priced at $US3 and nothing costing more than $US4, since there are no workers to pay and minimal overhead costs. Plus, there is no reason for customers to tip.
Investors, including the Thiel Foundation and well-known angel investor Jason Calacanis, have supplied Café X with $US7 million in funding.
“The idea of humans making coffee for 10 hours a day is as crazy in 2018 as a tollbooth collector sitting in a metal box on a freeway,” Calacanis told CNBC. “It’s also torture for the customer. Baristas get orders wrong, drink quality is wildly inconsistent, and coffee places don’t keep a record of every customer’s past drink order – but you can do all this with robotics.”
Automation is sweeping the retail industry, with many companies looking to cut labour costs as minimum wages rise.
First robotic barista in Belarus
The first-in-Belarus barista robot was built as part of a partner project between Rozum Robotics R&D company (Belarus) and the Fransua coffee-and-bakery chain (Ukraine). Now, the solution is put up for sale under the R/Cafe franchise.
The installation is an automated kiosk, its centerpiece is the PULSE arm-manipulator that interacts with an espresso machine and grinder to deliver top-quality javas. R/Cafe franchise barista bots are to appear at large shopping malls and airports. One installation is already being tested in Ukraine.
Daily throughput of the robotic coffee maker is over 300 cups of joe. The manipulator’s software contains recipes of espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, flat white with a choice of flavors.
Buying a beverage from an R/Cafe barista is essentially a one-click operation: a person selects a product on the tablet and, once the order is paid, the magic mechanics begins. The arm switches the grinder to have a fresh portion of beans ground and packed. Then, just like a professional server, it carries the filter holder over to the brewing machine and prepares a basic shot, adds milk or flavors as preselected. The entire process is visible through the glass case surrounding the robot workspace.