Gary Dinges over at the Statesman has a great article up on a robotic coffee kiosk that has popped up on the University of Texas campus. Briggo Coffee, undoubtedly hatched in a dank, airless basement on the outskirts of town, is a new concept offered by Kevin Nater and Charles Studor.

The machine, located in the Flawn Academic Center, is the company’s sole outlet. Briggo has raised 7.8 million dollars in capital for the venture in which you download an app for your smartphone, start mashing some buttons and prepare to receive your morning jolt from a box of nuts and bolts. We’re intrigued but do have reservations. How will we find out about a Los Crudos reunion from a robot barista? Can the kiosk tell us about the new goulash food truck they found near Pflugerville? If the Paramount has a Robert Mitchum retrospective, we have a distinct feeling this will be outside the robot barista’s purview.

These are the traits that make a good barista. Sure we love a good pull but the human interaction is the reason we leave the house for coffee. A good barista is worth their weight in gold. They serve as a conduit of knowledge about the cultural offerings of their city. This interplay between customer and worker is crucial and is a basis for the whole “third place” theory.

The coffee shop is neither home nor work. It’s the third place {see Ray Oldenburg.}

The best third places combine with food, beer, coffee or whatever it is that they’re offering to stimulate your endorphin flow and communicate, on a primal level, that their space is crucial to your daily flow. It’s why so many people go to coffee shops to write, socialize or just hang out.

Tapping in an order on a iphone then jerking your coffee out of the robot barista’s steely clutches offers little appeal from where we sit. Briggo owner Charles Studor claims “Coffee is an everyday thing. It’s a ritual. I wanted to make it a smarter ritual.”

I’m not sure that this concept is smarter. Faster? Yes. Cheaper? Presumably, as nobody’s earning a wage to make your coffee and we doubt the robot barista has a tip jar, but smarter sounds like a stretch.

Some of our greatest mornings ever arose out of the coffee shop. They serve as springboards. One minute you’re sitting at Little City, the next minute you’re calling in sick at work and hurtling toward Paleface in a Jeep Wagoneer for a day in the sun with a dead ringer for Kitten Natividad.

Try and pull that one out of your hat robot overlord barista.

read the Dinges piece

and we spend a lot of time in Austin drinking coffee and writing about it here

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