When it comes to robot baristas, the robot itself usually takes center stage. I mean, those articulating arms are doing the actual work of making a latte. But with Crown Coffee’s Ella robot coffee kiosk, the wall in front of the robot is just as cool because it is actually a transparent display.
The transparent OLED display is made by LG, and shows off full motion video and graphics. But because of the transparent nature of the display, you can also see through the video action to watch the robot concocting your drink.
We actually covered Ella and its transparent display last year, but this week, LG Information Display Singapore posted a (promotional) video to LinkedIn giving us a better, more polished look at the technology.
Aside from being cool, it’s easy to see how this type of display could help robot baristas generate additional revenue. The colorful displays will undoubtedly attract eyeballs and could run sales for particular drinks and snacks, upsell items after you place an order, or even run third-party advertisements, without impacting how the actual robot operates.
While robots are very cool, they still have yet to fully prove themselves in the marketplace. Cafe X shut down all of its robot baristas last year (though the airport locations are starting to open back up), and Briggo was quietly sold to Costa Coffee with no fanfare or indication of what the sale price was. That’s typically not a good sign.
I still think there’s a bright future for robotic kiosks (we’re actually hosting a full day virtual summit to discuss food automation — you should join us!), especially in high-traffic areas like airports and malls where people want drinks quickly. Robots can churn out consistent drinks all day and night, and they are also contactless, which will most likely remain important even as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes.
The transparent displays make even more sense for co-branded robotic kiosks. It’s not hard to imagine how a Starbucks branded robot would take advantage of this technology to run a steady stream of ads and promotions.
Right now, the only place to see Ella’s transparent display in action is at its installation in Singapore. As it rolls out more locations, Crown Coffee plans to have a mix of owned and operated machines as well as licensed kiosks. As more robots come online, it’s apparent how cool the transparent display will be.