Unlike other dedicated storefront locations, this new version of the Cafe X robot is a standalone kiosk that sits literally on the sidewalk at the corner of Sansome and Bush in SF’s Financial District. In addition to the updated form factor, the new version of the robot can handle multiple drink sizes (8 oz and 12 oz), clear cups, and also does nitro-infused cold brew coffee.
Similar to Briggo, Cafe X plans to own and operate its machines and place them in commercial buildings, airports and other high-traffic areas to deliver quality coffee via an automated experience. Customers can order drinks with their phone or through a tablet next to the kiosk. Just like the Cafe X stores, the kiosk will always have a human on hand to help people with the ordering process and to educate customers about the coffee choices.
Unlike Briggo, which hides its machinations within its kiosk housing and is more of a high-end machine than a traditional robot, Cafe X proudly displays its articulating robotic arm front and center behind a giant pane of clear glass. “It’s part of the experience,” Cafe X CEO, Henry Hu, told me during a visit to the kiosk today, “We want people to see the robot making the drink, so they don’t feel like they are just at a vending machine.”
As part of that experience, Cafe X has added new gestures to the robot arm, which can now do things like wave at customers after it has finished making their drink.
Hu told me that another reason they use the arm is that it’s more modular, which comes in handy if they want to change the machine. For instance, Cafe X built its own gripper for this generation robot, enabling it to handle the different types of cups and to pull the tap on the cold brew. “If we want to expand the menu or change items seasonally,” said Hu, “we can just swap parts out.”
Hu also said that the company has been fielding licensing interest in the new kiosk from around the world. For the immediate future though, Cafe X will focus on rolling out more standalone kiosks in San Francisco.
I got a hot chocolate with oat milk from the kiosk today and it was pretty delicious. And judging by the number of people who stopped, gawked and smiled as they watched the robot whip up their drinks, the Cafe X show will probably catch on.