Will Robot Baristas Replace Traditional Cafes?

There has been a long tradition of making and drinking coffee across cultures and continents. Now, a tech company in Austin, Texas, is adding to this tradition by creating robot baristas to make the coffee-drinking experience more convenient. For a price similar to a cup of Starbucks coffee, a robot can now make it, too.

“I think it’s super cool. It’s so innovative. I’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s really fun to watch your coffee getting made by a robot,” said Wendy Cummings, who just received her drink made by the robot barista.

Created by the company Briggo, the barista is a robotic arm that makes coffee inside a kiosk that can brew a fresh cup of designer coffee at any time of day.

This robot barista also solves a global problem, said Charles Studor, Briggo’s founder.

“Coffee is ubiquitous, and this problem that we’re solving is common around the world. The problem is very high-quality coffee that’s convenient, that’s consistent, done just the way you like and that is very efficient in the use of the beans and the raw materials,” Studor said.

Customers can download the Briggo app on their mobile phones and customize their order. When their coffee is made, they can go to the robot barista and pick up their order.

“It’s perfect to just not wait in lines, just getting there picking your coffee, and you’re good to go for the day,” said Astrid Chacon, who just tried a robot-made coffee.

Plans for social impact

“I started the company really thinking about the way we consume quality products in the West,” Studor said. “We’re often very wasteful, and we don’t really understand what it’s taken to get those quality beans, in this case, beans to our mouth, essentially. And we want to be able to connect at the end of the day, not just solve the problem of quality coffee — convenient, but also back to origin.”

Studor’s long-term goal is to create social impact by connecting the consumer with the coffee grower. This kind of relationship can be possible through the internet and social media, Studor said.

“Maybe the farmers have some issues. Maybe we can do programs where we connect you and say, ‘Help with a water project,’ or ‘Help with a motor blower that’s gone down in a small cooperative.’ So, how do we use the technology of this century to connect people in lots of different ways? And coffee is a common ground that everyone can relate to,” Studor said.

Robots vs. humans

While big-name coffee brands such as Starbucks dedicate a portion of their business to bettering the farming communities that supply their products, will the robot barista with a social cause threaten more traditional cafes?

“It’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m sure we’re going to be having this instead of Starbucks,” Chacon said.

Studor believes robot and human baristas can serve different coffee needs.

“It’s a big market. There are specialty coffee shops where there are high-quality trained baristas that I don’t think we’ll ever replace. I mean, there is a place and time for those. But there’s a lot of places around. Think about a hospital in the middle of the night. Where is the quality coffee there? Where is it at 5:30 in the morning at the airport? And so, we want to get that quality experience in all those places that are really underserved,” Studor said.

Briggo’s robot baristas are currently in the Austin area. The company plans to put a robot kiosk at Austin’s airport, as well as expanding to corporate campuses in other major Texas cities, and then to the U.S. East and West coasts and beyond.  

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