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This whimsical kiosk turns coffee service into a magic show

The Coffee Robot is a 2020 Innovation by Design honoree.

This whimsical kiosk turns coffee service into a magic show
[Photo: Laurel Golio]
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The automated coffee machine continues to be a sad, vestigial organ of hospital cafeteria culture. So when Jonas Damon (pictured, right), former VP of concepts studio at Starbucks and current chief design officer at the robotic coffee startup Truebird, was figuring out how to package an automated coffee kiosk of the future, he recognized that it had to break old conventions and find its own identity. “We sit somewhere on the spectrum from vending machine to coffee shop,” says Damon. “We obviously want to be closer to a coffee shop. And part of being a coffee shop is it’s architectural in nature.”

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Damon’s team chose to hide away Truebird’s mechanical features, such as automated milk dispensers, to create a machine accented to evoke an inviting café (wood panels) or kitchen (Corian counters), with liberal amounts of glass camouflaging the unit into its surroundings. With dimensions similar to an oversize hutch, Truebird glows with pools of light, and the bright orange espresso machine—the kiosk’s single pop of color—can’t be missed from across the room. “That’s the long-distance cue that you can get great espresso there,” says Damon.

In this era of social distancing, the robotic coffee maker fulfills every order with a little high-tech magic show, using magnets to glide cups across the counter from the espresso machine to your pickup slot. The effect makes for a whimsical celebration of automation. “You can’t see any mechanics,” says Damon, “just a cup floating across a white surface.”

See more honorees from the 2020 Innovation by Design Awards here.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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