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New $25,000 Robot Could Put Starbucks Baristas Out of Business

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The word “sabotage” has an interesting origin. Some say that it originated in early 20th century France when weavers first encountered mechanized looms in their factories.

Frightened for the future of their jobs, the workers allegedly threw their wooden shoes (known as sabots) into the machines to cause them to break. It makes for a slightly funny mental image, and I can’t help but wonder what such sabotage would look like today.

Well, in the case of Cafe X Technologies’ new robot barista, I think we know: It would look like a hot latte splashed onto circuitry. The company hopes its foray into automating everyday activities will revolutionize the coffee industry.



“In today’s world, you have two options for getting a cup of coffee,” Cafe X CEO Henry Hu said in a press release. “You’re either in and out with something subpar or you’re waiting in a 15-minute line for a great cappuccino.”

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The matte-white robot barista looks like a tollbooth and has been co-designed by Apple and Boston technologies. An articulated arm with pincers sits encapsulated inside a container.

Would you rather be served coffee by a robot?

Touchscreen pads allow customers to order cuppas according to their specification. And the mechanical arm even performs a little jig after it serves your joe.

Speaking of tollbooths, at least one tech guru sees this as a way to vanquish human inefficiency.

Jason Calacanis, who invested in Uber during its inception, said to CNBC that “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.

“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.”



Given the fact that the robot barista costs $25,000 and can serve 120 cups of coffee every hour, it’s not hard to see how Starbucks employees might feel a little frightened. However, it’s also easy to find flaws in Calacanis’ argument.

After all, to err is human, but to really mess things up, you need a computer — or a robot. And a robot certainly lacks a personal touch.

Victoria Slaker, vice president of product design at Ammunition, the firm that helped design the robot barista, says that people shouldn’t worry. The goal was simply to better a particular market segment.

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“We’re not trying to replace baristas or that relationship customers have with them,” she explained. “But we saw an opportunity to make something more beautiful and more interesting than a standard vending machine that could also pour a mean cup of coffee.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
Education
Wheaton College
Location
Florida
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Entertainment, Faith, Travel




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