Switzerland-based robots startup Smyze is a lot like other robot baristas already out on the market. It’s eponymous robot is a self-contained kiosk installed in high-traffic areas, users order drinks from an on-board touchscreen or via a web app to order and an articulating arms swing and swivels around to make those drinks.
So far, this sounds a lot like other robo-ristas on the market from the likes of Cafe X, Crown Digital and Blue Hill coffee. What makes Smyze a little different is that it also offers a variety of mocktail-type drinks, making it more of a full beverage station rather than just a high-tech, sci-fi latte machine. Measuring 2 meters by 2 meters, the Smyze station has a menu of 60 drinks, split 50/50 between coffee drinks and mocktails, and can churn out 120 drinks per hour.
“We didn’t want to just be a robot barista,” Daniel Adamec, Co-Founder of Smyze told me by video chat this week. “We have a broad range of drink possibilities, you don’t want to restrict yourself to just coffee.”
I asked Adamec why his company went with an articulating arm for its design, as it might not be as fast as more of an industrial machine type of approach. “We want the robot experience,” he said, highlighting the arm’s theatricality. “We don’t want to have a vending machine. It doesn’t add a huge cost, and it’s just an experience. People love it.”
There are currently three Smyze robots up and running in Switzerland with two more set to go online in that country in the next couple of months. The robots are owned and operated by Smyze, so it is responsible for stocking, cleaning and maintenance (which Adamec said happens once a day). When they install in a new location, Smyze negotiates a revenue sharing deal with that location rather than renting space or leasing the machine outright. Adamec said that Smyze will continue that owner/operator model as the company grows across Europe, but will also use more of a franchise model for its forthcoming customers in the middle east and Asia, where Smyze is not physically located.
As noted, there are currently plenty of robot baristas coming to market in different places around the world. But Smyze is part of a larger movement of startups looking to automated all kinds of commercial beverage experiences. Blendid and Alberts make smoothies. Rotender and Celia make actual cocktails. And Drinkbot makes a variety of juice-based mocktailers. Right now, Smyze sits somewhere in the middle of all these, offering a broad array of drinks, which just might help its robot stand out in an increasingly crowded field.