Last week, JL Hufford Coffee and Tea of Indiana announced a patent for a super-automated home espresso machine that would use artificial intelligence (i.e., pattern-learning technology) to anticipate the espresso beverage needs of its owner: Presenting the Coffee Machine That Reads Minds. Artificial intelligence technologies have long suffered a reputation for being “a solution in search of a problem,” and this example seems case and point.
This technology allows the home espresso machine to learn your coffee-drinking habits, noting the time of day or week that you generally want your cappuccino, your latte, or your double-tall, four-pump vanilla caramel macchiato. So the patent-holders suggest that the next logical step on the evolutionary chain of super-automated espresso machines is to have the machine prepare it before you even ask.
So just how many of us complain that our espresso machine doesn’t predict what we want to drink? And then think about how much these super-automated espresso machines cost — such as the cited Jura-Capresso Impressa Z6 (list price: $3,659.00) — and compare it with the espresso quality they produce: about the level of an iffy Starbucks or, equivalently, what you could get out of a (non-automated) home espresso set up that costs about $200.
This business approach to home espresso is akin to 1950s thinking when it came to our food. Rather than focus on flavor, enjoyment, and the quality of ingredients, the emphasis was on microwave-oven speed and instant-potatoes convenience. If this was the era of the TV dinner, I’d say JL Hufford is on to something. But today’s consumers want artisan, not cookie cutter.
Given that we have wines that are now popularly available as more than the old red and white options, and cheese that comes as more than the old white and orange options, is there anyone bothering to first solve the problem of making better home espresso to begin with? That is a genuine problem in search of a solution.
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