If it is inevitable that robots will one day take over, the least they could do is make a damn fine cup of coffee.
The internet has been abuzz with news of a robot barista brewing up some mean java at a place called Henna Cafe in Shibuya. Here at Breaker Japan, we’re lucky enough to have our office nearby, so we decided to check out this miracle of modern man for ourselves.
In the basement of the MODI building just a short walk from Shibuya station’s Hachiko exit, a robotic barista named Sawyer sits behind the counter. Surrounded by other technological attractions, like an exhibition full of high-tech VR games and the cutting edge of travel booking technology–a travel agency–, the placid eyes on Sawyer’s small LED screen await your order. His one mechanical arm poised at ready to begin preparing your drink.
We ordered from the touchscreen display nearby and placed our cup on the counter. After scanning the QR code on our ticket, we waited for the future to begin. It was a long wait. Turns out that the designers at Rethink Robotics, Inc., an American robotics company, attempted to simulate the attitude of an actual hipster coffee shop barista.
Get used to this gaze
After some confusion from the two obsolete human attendants working nearby, we noticed a small laptop concealed behind the counter. There was some unsure button pressing and hushed chatter between the two obsolete human attendants. Finally, one of them asked what drink we had ordered.
The obsolete human attendant punched our cafe latte order in, and we scanned our ticket a third time. Suddenly, the Sawyer came to life. We waited with bated breath as the mechanical claw grasped our paper cup and swung into position under the latte machine. The robot barista then proceeded to press the cafe latte button.
Well played, Sawyer, well played
We decided to give Sawyer more of a challenge: a traditional drip coffee. After going through the same patented process for getting an order through, the robot barista once again sprang to life. This time was a bit more impressive. Sawyer swung his robot arm around preparing coffee grounds and setting up filters. When it comes down to it though, you’re watching a machine use other machines to make you coffee, and even the least engaged obsolete humans are faster.
Sawyer also spilled our coffee. Perfect.
The robot revolution this is not. In the future, robots will surely be running our lives, but for now, the jobs of millions of dead-eyed baristas are safe.