Beijing Orion Star Technology Co. recently announced its newest creation: a humanoid robotic barista with master-level brewing techniques. Boasting cameras, six-axis robotic arms, self-adjusting grasping claws, and a multitude of safety features, the Robotic Coffee Master creates flawless drinks with personalized functionality. With tens of thousands of learning hours under its belt, this technology is changing the way people think about coffee on a global scale.
While this might seem overwhelmingly futuristic, over 1800 organizations use these robots, and they have served more than 200 million people. Although baristas will not vanish tomorrow, are these machines becoming the new normal? This year has prompted quite a bit of change, and the demand for distance and safety is certainly on the rise. These robots could prepare drinks with unwavering accuracy and do so with speed, precision, and no concerns of contamination.
They ultimately provide a worry-free service within high traffic areas and could potentially mitigate many concerns of contracting COVID-19. It can standardize the ordering experience, reduce wait times, and minimize variability from drink to drink. Additionally, the Vice President at Orion Star, Ting Li, argues that the robot will free up baristas to do other important tasks and even focus on creating new drinks.
However, if a cup of coffee is half caffeine and half an experience, would a robot take away a vital piece of the congenial service we look forward to? Baristas might be the first people we speak to each morning; would an electronic “hello” really brighten up our days?
The universal feelings of warmth, coziness, and comfort pervade nearly every coffee house in the nation. From the charisma and personability people experience when ordering, to the nice notes written on many cups, baristas do far more for customers than simply prepare coffee. Some might argue that a human-like machine behind the counter might undermine that beloved ambiance.
So, what would you prefer when you walk into the coffee shop on your way to work—a robotic machine that champions safety or your favorite barista wishing you a good day? Does this time-honored industry need an artificially intelligent overhaul?