It takes a steady hand and creative sensibilities to craft great coffee art. Still, there are certain limitations to the medium. It's hard, for example, to create a somewhat photo-realistic image. Unless you have a latte printer that can do it for you.
Taiwan coffee chain Let's Cafe has a series of kiosk-like locations. It's in competition with chains that run full stores. To separate itself, the company introduced a marketing gimmick that combines portraits, printing, mobile, and a steaming hot cup of coffee.
The Let's Cafe latte printer works when customers upload an image from their mobile phone to the machine. Put a cup of joe under it and the machine sprinkles the image onto the top of the latte in the form of cocoa powder. Text can also be added, so conceivably you could make your own drinkable LOLcats.
Way back in 2008, a coffee printer was announced, but it seems to have disappeared into vaporware since its initial buzz. The Lets Caffe printer, however, is up and running and very real.
Naturally, there's a social-media component. Customers have been sharing their images on Facebook. The chain has credited the printing machine with an increase in sales. Take that, Starbucks.
So, are robots going to replace human coffee artists? Will the cold, hard edges of a machine-generated portrait be one of the first volleys in the mechanical uprising? Probably not. The marketing move has worked well for Let's Cafe, but the machine still can't handle it if you come up and request a half-caff soy triple Venti with a shot of vanilla and an image of a unicorn. You'll need a human to sort that order out.