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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ho-hum - Robot Can Make You A Coffee At Tokyo Café

As far things a real robot or robotic system can do, the Sawyer robot at Tokyo’s Henna Café is pretty darn (yawn) mild. Maybe I could use a coffee.

Operated by H.I.S. Co., a large travel agency/company, the Henna Café has opened up a cafe whereby customers place an order for a coffee via a ticket vending machine, get a QR code (a two-dimension matrix barcode) which the customer then holds up to a machine on a counter for it to scan.

At that time, the U.S. manufactured Sawyer robotic system from Rethink Robotics will grind coffee beans, control the automatic drip machines and place the made coffee onto a small counter for the customer to take.

Sawyer will add sugar, milk or cream per your order, or provide other specialty coffees on he menu (and within its menu).

Around for nearly three years, Sawyer is a single-arm high-performance cobot (collaborative robot) that has been designed to safely work alongside humans and to execute machine tending. 

More useful cobots work alongside human coworkers building automotive technology, or making a sausage for consumers at a German trade show a couple of years ago, or more recently when an ABB YuMi robot conducted the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra, or even when cosmetics giant Shiseido began using humanoid robots on its assembly line, for example, which is why I have trouble getting up for H.I.S.’s new Henna Café.

It’s not to belittle Rethink Robotics great work on the cobot, just that - and maybe it’s just me - but I’ve seen these robots at work for a long while now… and while I am always fascinated, I am not freaked out in wonderment at just what our electronic friend can do.

Still, if you are in the Shibuya area of Tokyo, stop in and pay ¥320 (~US $2.93) for a regular drip coffee - or any of the other six varieties of coffee available.

Now… if you want to be impressed by robotics, maybe go and check out the Henn-na Hotel—also owned by H.I.S.—the world’s first hotel staffed by robots.

One of the definitions of the Japanese word “Henn” is “to change,” which represents the company’s desire to evolve to create an extraordinary sensation and comfort that lies beyond the ordinary. There words, not mine.

You can see my brief write-up on it HERE from 2015.

At the front desk of the Henn-na Hotel, visitors are greeted by multi-lingual robots to help you check in…

Please to eat you. Do you have any reservation?

… or check out. It’s like Blue from Jurassic World is hiding out between movies. Hey, a Velociraptor’s gotta eat.

At the cloakroom, the robotic arm will store your luggage for you.

Upon registration, the guest's face is scanned within the hotel's face recognition system, which allows guests the hassle of carrying a room key or even worrying about it... though I wonder what happens if you cut your face afterwards?

The hotel has human staff on premises 24/7 and are available to attend the customer in the case of emergency, but really it’s you dealing with the robots all the time.

Perhaps because the hotel hasn’t got with the times (ha) and hasn’t begun to utilize robotic delivery vehicles within its spacious hotel, there is no room service.

Back in March of 2017, I first came across a robotic delivery system being used by Domino’s Pizza Enterprises—the master franchisor for the Domino’s Pizza brand in Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Japan and Germany—who were working alongside Starship Technologies on a pilot programs to deliver pizza to customers using robot and drone technologies.

Starship Technologies has designed and built autonomous robots to deliver Domino products within a one-mile radius of select German and Dutch cities.

I see no reason why such a delivery system couldn’t be utilized in the hotel, but perhaps it os worried about guests falling over the robotic delivery vehicle… or it simply doesn’t want the hassle of having to do room service.

Heck, the hotel doesn’t offer laundry, a restaurant or even a public bath, but aside from the laundry service, the others are located nearby… though I learned that the hotel is also lacking in ice machines and microwaves… but it does have vending machines that sell beverages and light snacks.

The real allure is the robot staff that may or may not be human-looking.

And that’s another reason why going to the Henna Café isn’t such a bid deal to me.

Andrew Joseph

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