Electronics

Introducing CASE: the cognitive coffee-maker

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Anyone whose working environment is plagued by long lines at the coffee machine will be interested in CASE – a cognitive coffee machine that recognizes its users, makes their favourite drink and engages them in conversation to while away the wait. For un-chatty types, there’s the option to listen to music news updates too.

CASE, named in homage to one of Interstellar’s humanity-serving robots from, is brought to life by a team of students from Imperial College, London and IBM Senior Inventor John McNamara, and bears a personality inspired by Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. It’s inexpensive, versatile and practical – blending “smart technology with a traditional need”, according to the (rather effective) sales pitch.

More than a smart coffee maker

Coordinator Sam Zatland says that the team’s idea was to go beyond the capabilities of the ‘smart’ coffee-machines currently on the market. While these simply allow the user to set a time for their coffee or control the machine from their smartphones, CASE offers much more. It’s a smart coffee maker, virtual barista and infotainment system all in one.

How does it work?

The team used IoT programming tool NODE-Red to link together the software, electrical hardware and mechanical hardware components.

The software deals with the user input – in this case, spoken instructions given into a microphone. IBM Watson’s Speech-to-Text service transcribes what the user has said and interprets their request, whether that’s to ask for a large coffee or the latest news updates.

There’s also a facial recognition component to recognize repeat users. Data from dialogue with these people helps the device learn more about their preferences, so that it can inform future interactions with them. So for example, after meeting Mike a couple of times, CASE will remember that Mike’s go-to drink is a flat white, that he prefers news updates to music while he waits and doesn’t enjoy small-talk.

On the electrical side, servers control the strength and volume of coffee, while LDRs (light dependent resistors) trigger warning lights denoting when action or maintenance is needed – when the water tank is empty, for example. A simple touch screen interface tells the user all they need to know.

The mechanical hardware component is CAD-designed (computer aided design) and 3D-printed for cost-effective production and practicality.

Together, these parts deliver a simple-to-use, convenient and versatile bit of kit. We expect caffeine addicts everywhere will be watching out for this one.

See the CASE cognitive coffee-maker in action

Take a look at the video below to learn more about CASE and meet the team behind the coffee-maker of the future.

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