Baristas, cheery or otherwise, are nowhere to be seen at a new café in San Francisco.
Customers at Cafe X Technologies, which opened on Monday, get their caffeine fix from a robotic arm that prepares coffee like it would assemble a car on a factory floor.
People can order lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos through a mobile app or by using one of the café’s iPad-powered kiosks. They then choose the kind of coffee beans they want, add flavorings if they wish, and then watch as a white, robotic arm goes to work.
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The café looks like a giant coin-operated fortune-telling machine often found at carnivals. Except these devices contain a robotic arm, several espresso machines, and a milk dispenser that sits behind a thick pane of glass.
Henry Hu, the startup's CEO, and his staff programmed a Mitsubishi robotic arm, typically used to handle screws and bolts in industrial settings, to be a barista. The robotic arm grasps individual coffee cups and then slowly pivots to an espresso machine that pours without spilling a drop. If a customer wants milk or syrup, the arm reaches over to another machine that adds it.
After finishing, the arm gently drops the cup into a small opening for the customer take and sip.
Hu said the wants to sell the coffee-making machine to other businesses, but he’s not exactly sure how much to charge. But he said they would cost less than the $250,000 to $350,000 to build a small traditional cafe.
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The startup’s has raised $5 million from Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, and The Thiel Foundation.