Are you sick of waiting in line for your morning hit of caffeine? Well Henry Hu, a 23-year-old college dropout, certainly was.
His solution? Create your own cafe company and only employ robots.
While waiting in line for coffee, Hu noticed how repetitive coffee-making really is. So he left school, sold his car, and moved to Hong Kong (he heralds from Beijing), to explore the potential of robotic baristas.
He and a business partner worked on prototypes while touring multiple car factories in search of the perfect assembly-line robotic arm. He found what he was looking for at Mitsubishi, and in 2016 was awarded US$10,000 (AUS$13,200) from the Thiel Fellowship, a grant created for college dropouts who want to start a company.
Cafe X was born.
(Anyone else immediately think of Alicia Vikander’s terrifying portrayal of a robot in Ex Machina?)
His first cafe, which is not so much a cafe but a kiosk, can be found in Hong Kong, and the second recently opened in a mall in San Francisco. You can pre-order your coffee using the app, or order in-store using a touchscreen.
The kiosk itself consists of two coffee machines and a robotic arm that flawlessly flips cups and swirls your hot coffee like a pro. The menu is limited and will appeal to people who value simplicity and consistency.
Your grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk probably won’t be available for a while yet.
You’ll also be greeted by one or two human product specialists who do everything but make the coffee. Hu’s intention was never to replace human jobs, but perfect the coffee experience. He feels this can be best achieved by partnering robot efficiency with human hospitality.
I’m almost convinced. And is it just me, or is that robotic arm kind of cute?