3/11/2013 10:12:00 AM

Robots Serve You Coffee and Beer at SXSW

Can you see the Zagat logo on the top left side of the latte?
The SXSW experience is as much about beer and pick-me-ups as it is panels, parties and people. In the words of Arnold Worldwide’s director of creative technology, Anthony Stellato, “Take social media and technology and add copious amounts of beer: sounds like SXSW to me.”

Stellato and his team have developed a smart beer vending machine named Arnie, who hangs out in Arnold’s offices and recommends and dispenses beers to employees and visitors. But you’re not going to find a Shiner or a Coors Light in Arnie. Instead, all of the beer is home-brewed by employees, who also create the labels and copy. For example, there’s a Arnold Czech-style pilsner, an unfiltered hefeweizen (“the nectar of the nerds”) and a honey brown ale (“smoother than Facebook’s IPO”). The oatmeal stout and the Irish ale are tied in first place.


Stellato’s team built Arnie in less than a month, and in a panel called "Drinking Your Way to the Future," he estimated they brew 1,400 beers per month. Arnie recommends beers to people not based on ratings but on the customer’s history, plus he has different moods and conversations with people based on what’s going on in their lives. Unfortunately Arnold Worldwide isn’t selling Arnie beers yet, but if you visit the campus you can get one for free. 

And even if you aren’t chugging Arnie beer, chances are that if you’re at SXSW, beer and other drinks are involved in some way. Monday is your last chance to check out the robotic baristas at GE’s Brilliant Brew truck. The Barista Bots are robotic arms created by Rock Paper Robot that draw images on top of your latte. The original idea was to feature faces on top of Irish Coffee, but the windy weather, unwieldy foam and rocking truck have taken the designs down a notch to GE lightbulbs or, in our case, a Zagat logo (can you see it in the photo above? It’s hiding on the lefthand side) in regular lattes.

And it’s not 7-11 coffee that you’re sipping. Subscription coffee service Tonx brought some of its delicious beans to brew. The Peruvian beans have strong notes of almond and marzipan and make for a great morning cup or an afternoon pickup.

On Monday, March 11, the GE truck will be at 513 E. Cesar Chavez, next to the Vice House, from 10 AM – 4 PM. Also follow #BrilliantBrew.

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