Seattle-based startup Artly Coffee’s goal is to make specialty coffee available to everyone — serving up drinks that are made by an AI-powered robot barista instead of a human.
ISO specialty coffee: You can find a cheap cup of coffee at practically any gas station or fast food drive-thru, but if you want something elevated — say, a honey rose-flavored latte decorated with a flower made from steamed oat milk — you’ll need to hit up a specialty coffee shop.
You might have a really great cafe in your neighborhood, but, especially outside of major cities, you still might have trouble finding one with a barista capable of making your fancy beverage perfectly every time. And even if you do live near such a shop, you’ll likely pay a premium for the drink.
The robot barista: Artly has now developed a robotic platform that creates specialty coffee drinks autonomously — and no human baristas means Artly can sell its drinks anywhere and at a lower cost while still making a profit.
“AI and robotics make it easier for us to scale than traditional specialty coffee stores,” CEO Meng Wang told Geekwire.
How it works: Artly’s robot barista is basically a robotic arm capable of swiveling around a coffee-making station to access the instruments and ingredients needed to make customer orders, which it receives via an app.
The bot learned to make drinks by watching award-winning barista Joe Yang, and now it can even learn new recipes and techniques simply by observing Yang or another human.
Looking ahead: Artly’s robot barista is currently serving up drinks at just five West Coast locations, but on September 26, the company announced that it had closed an $8 million funding round that will allow it to open additional US locations before the end of 2022.
While Wang does concede that his company’s bot eliminates the need for a human barista at a specialty coffee shop, he notes that the startup is creating other types of employment.
“We created more STEM jobs and elevated barista jobs so our baristas could focus on creating better recipes, teaching the robot, and providing customer service,” Wang told GeekWire.
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