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A robot barista helps maintain social distancing at a South Korean café in Daejeon

robot barista

MILAN – A robot barista is being used in a South Korean coffee shop to help maintain social distancing, as the country is successfully transitioning towards what the government calls “distancing in daily life”.

A café in Daejeon, South Korea’s fifth-largest metropolis, is using a robot barista to to handle orders, serve people lattes and make it easier for consumers to stay the recommended six feet apart, according to a report from Reuters.

“Our system needs no input from people from order to delivery, and tables were sparsely arranged to ensure smooth movements of the robots, which fits will with the current ‘untact’ and distancing campaign,” said said Lee Dong-bae, director of research at Vision Semicon, a smart factory solution provider, which developed the robot barista together with a state-run science institute.

The robot can make 60 different types of coffee and serves orders to consumers at their tables. It also senses the clearest routes in the shop for social distancing and communicates that information to other devices.

An order of six drinks, processed through a kiosk, took just seven minutes, according to Reuters.

Just one human works at the cafe to oversee operations and handle cleaning tasks.

The team from the factory and institute is estimating that they will distribute robots to a minimum of 30 cafes in 2020.

Korean manufacturers have been researching ways to automate the café experience for years now, but the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic engendered a surge in demand as companies searched for ways to help keep customers safe from potentially spreading the virus.

While the response from officials has proven effective so far, the risk of smaller outbreaks remains an issue. Earlier this month, officials in Seoul were forced to shut down the capital city’s bars and nightclubs just days after they reopened because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

But as residents begin the slow transition back to business-as-usual, robots could be a key to preserving social distancing measures more easily and safely.