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What Regular Joes Think about the One-Armed Robot Baristas Invading San Francisco

Speedy caffeine delivery is Café X’s X factor, and the coffee’s decent, too.

Rachel Metz writes: Robots may be coming for our jobs, but even in a tech-centric city like San Francisco, it usually seems they haven’t gotten here yet. That’s changing, though, as a local startup called Café X starts rolling out robotic baristas that dole out lattes and cappuccinos with mechanical flourishes.

Café X now has three robots operating behind glass cases in downtown San Francisco, two in shopping-heavy areas and one in the middle of the Financial District. You can order a drink in advance through a smartphone app, or just walk up to one of its locations and do so on a touch screen.

cafex08

CAFEX

The robot—an arm, really—brings a cup to and from a machine that actually makes the coffee, or pulls cups of cold brew from a tap. When you enter a numerical code on a touch screen in front of the robot’s, er, cage, it places your drink on a platform so it can be lowered into a slot, kind of like a prize in a claw machine at an arcade. If you need help figuring out how to order, or finding a lid for your cup, there are also some human employees on hand (well, for now, at least).

[Read the full story here, at MIT Technology Review]

Coffee is serious business in San Francisco, with locals and tourists already willing to wait in long lines for their favorite drinks. We talked to 12 customers over two days at two Café X locations to see if the robot experience increased their coffee satisfaction.

Among our questions: Was the experience better or worse than visiting a regular café? Could they imagine getting their morning coffee from a robot every day? Does the appearance of robot baristas foreshadow robots’ replacing food service workers, or  is Café X just a fun novelty? Most important, how does the coffee taste? The answers reveal good and bad news for humans, barista and consumer alike.

People said they liked seeing the robot grab drinks—more interesting than watching a barista pour one out of a spigot, one said—and they liked … (read more)

Source: MIT Technology Review

rachel_metzAs MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for mobile, Rachel Metz covers a wide variety of startups and write gadget reviews out of  MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco office.More

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