SEOUL, South Korea — When you approach the sleek silver counter of Lounge X, a cafe in one of southern Seoul’s corporate hubs, a masked and aproned barista takes your order. Motioning toward the chip reader, he completes the order and walks over to pick out a glass cup. He presses a few buttons, then hands it off to Baris, the robot barista.
The automaton dances in dainty circles to the rhythm of a drip algorithm as hot water trickles into the filter. Mimicking the movements of a human being, Baris huffs and puffs, its body subtly lurching up and down a few times — an indicator of fatigue.
The robotics cafe, founded almost a year ago, finds itself in the middle of South Korea’s “untact” paradigm, the word being a portmanteau of the negative prefix “un” and “contact” that alludes to what a contactless society in the post-coronavirus era will look like.
If you click on the LoungeX link in the story, you can see a robot at work, though I don’t think it is the same one: no apron!