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Robot baristas can make coffee—but that doesn’t mean people have to like them

February 27, 2018

Cafe X, the robotic barista, has proved to be an object lesson in how tricky it is to automate even simple-sounding service jobs.

Too much caffeine: While the robot can make coffee faster than a person, its creators learned that customers find the bot’s rapid movements … a little unsettling. Humans, it turns out, like it better when coffee is prepared at human speeds.

Smile and wave: The team behind Cafe X has spent time a lot of time perfecting the robot’s gestures and “personality quirks.” It now acknowledges customers when they place an order (always a plus), can swirl coffee around in the cup and peer into coffee containers, and waves when the order is complete.

Easing us in: The newly designed robot experience opens today in San Francisco, but all the bells and whistles won't be ready just yet. As CEO Henry Hu told Fast Company, “We don’t want to end up in a situation where 15 people are waiting for their coffee and the robot is doing a dance.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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