HomeGeneralElla: The Fully-Autonomous Intel-Powered Robotic Barista

Ella: The Fully-Autonomous Intel-Powered Robotic Barista

The marvelous wonders of modern robotics seem to offer an exciting surprise every day. From self-driving cars to conversational chatbots, it seems the technology is improving at an increasingly rapid pace. This pace is made most evident at a small coffee shop in Singapore, where an Intel-powered robot barista, known as Ella, can always guarantee a good cup of Joe.

A wacky idea realized

This fully autonomous bot works at Crown Coffee, located in Downtown Singapore. According to Intel, this brave undertaking “naturally started over coffee.” Two years ago, Crown Coffee CEO and Founder Keith Tan spotted some of the company’s local employees stopping at his place for lunch. Tan pitched what he called a “completely wacky idea” to the group who were also part of the Sales and Marketing Group. The company recalls that they “connected Tan with the right Intel teams – and the rest is coffee history.”

Today, this six-axis robot guarantees the perfect cup of coffee to every customer with “uncanny consistency.” Ella has a lot of important responsibilities such as “taking orders remotely via an online app, making your cup of coffee, notifying you when it’s ready, serving it, finalizing your bill and charging your credit card.”

The company is not a stranger in the business of creating a robotic arm. Ella is naturally powered by Intel parts and units, including Intel Movidius Vision Processing Unit and Intel Distribution of OpenVINO toolkit, as well as Intel Xeon and Core processors.

A bot with many benefits

In addition to the benefit of quality control, Ella also improved other aspects of Tan’s business. Intel shared that “the compact unit takes up a fraction of the space required for a traditional coffee bar, which translates into a cheaper retail footprint…and Ella frees up labor, allowing Tan to reassign his staff to other in-store tasks like greeting customers or cleaning.”

Apart from that, Ella minimizes human contact which is also helping protect public safety, especially during this time. Intel explains that “the most important during the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are assured of safety as Ella operates in a sealed chamber.”

Tan and the Intel team are quite proud of their work. “I had an Americano, and it was amazing,” shared Intel’s Managing Director for the APJ Territory, Santhosh Viswanathan. He adds that “Ella opens new possibilities to food retailers to enable contactless futuristic service and develop alternate revenue models with the data Ella gathers” which ultimately adds to the future of smart cities brought about by IoT.

Like Viswanathan, Tan appreciates the cooperative effort that helped make Ella a reality and the possibilities that the bot has opened up. “I have plenty of gratitude to Intel, as they helped me realize this idea,” Tan said. “They listened to me, understood the problems I was trying to solve and partnered with me to design and develop prototypes.”

Riding the wave of Ella’s success, Tan and the Crown Coffee team, with Intel’s help, hope to scale the solution “to 40 other locations across Singapore, then to Japan and the rest of the world.” Tan has big, broad plans for the future and he hopes to make them a reality, one cup at a time. “What we are doing is transformational and will be part of the landscape of smart cities where AI-driven robots become deeply ingrained into our daily lives.”

YouTube: Intel Tech Helps a Singapore Coffee Shop Build a Robot Barista

Photo credit: The feature image is owned by Intel and has been provided for press usage.

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Nick Bozzelli-Levine
Tech Journalist