US robotics startup Cafe X has debuted a fully robotic barista at a cafe in San Francisco's Metreon shopping center.
The robot, which is nicknamed ‘Gordon’ can make a number of different types of coffee on demand in under a minute.
Customers order and pay for their drink with an app which Cafe X had already previous developed in-house.
The system itself combines two coffee roasting and grinding machines with a robotic arm manufactured by Mitsubishi.
Two coffee drinks can be produced in tandem before being efficiently distributed to the customer via the robotic arm and a retracting door.
The whole system is kept enclosed behind a transparent panel, meaning the customer can watch their beverage being made without being in any danger of being injured by the fast-moving robot arm.
Cafe X believes their system will be significantly more efficient than a human barista while still maintaining high quality.
It claims to have tested many different recipes before making a decision on how its robotic system would make its coffee. Moreover, the system can change the way it prepares the coffee on the fly in order to adjust to environmental conditions.
“The art part of coffee is the expertise in creating the beverage, not how well you can repeatedly do it,” says Cafe X founder Henry Hu according to the Wall Street Journal. “That is repetition a robot can do.”
Another benefit to an automated system is that it can result in reduced prices due to the elimination of costly human labor.
Cafe X’s coffee in San Francisco sells for between $2 and $3 compared an average price of $5 from competing human-staffed coffee shops. Nonetheless, it is unclear if this cost difference reflects savings from automation, or is simply a marketing stunt.
Should it be cost-effective, the installation of this robotic barista system could be the beginning of the end for the human barista.
Likely hundreds of thousands of people are employed globally in this industry which may become one of the first areas within the service sector to see large job losses from automation.