The Robot Barista at Muji Has Sparked a Surprising Amount of Debate

But at least your name should be spelled correctly on your latte.

Oh, Muji. You sweet, innocent thing. You thought you could introduce a novelty coffee-making robot into your modernist department store and not spark a debate about the value of human labour? Welcome to the internet in 2024, my friend.

But for better or for worse, Jarvis the Robot Barista has neither eyes nor ears nor a social media account, so he isn’t even aware of the controversy his new job at the beloved Japanese homewares-and-fashion shop has sparked. (And he definitely won’t be aware of the new one we just started by gendering him.) He’s just plugging away churning out dirty chai lattes and iced americanos for Muji shoppers. Is he taking pride in his latte art? Does making espresso spark joy? It’s kind of hard to tell because he also doesn’t have a face.

It’s the first robo-coffee-slinger in Canada, but Muji’s Portland and New York City stores have Jarvises (Jarvi?) as well to whip up hot bevs at the in-store Muji cafe to fuel minimalist-turtleneck shopping sprees. Customers can order from the Artly Coffee app (for a limited time, your first cup is just $1) and then watch as the mechanical arms work their magic.

You can also see the process via an Instagram video—one that’s inspired a range of reactions. In the comments section, you’ll find some folks concerned that Jarvis was putting humanoid baristas out of a job, while a handful of proud cheapskates celebrated the opportunity to get a latte without shelling out a tip. (Like we said: welcome to 2024.)



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Jarvis was unavailable for comment, but the Muji social media manager hopped in to clarify that the robot has actually been a job creator in the Muji micro-economy. “Rest assured we have 2 staff members who act as the main support for Jarvis, as well as 10 other manager staff who support with opening and closing operations throughout the day/week. While Jarvis can remain independent, he still requires an entire cafe staff for additional support,” they wrote.

Maybe when Jarvis is a shift supervisor or key-holder we can recategorize this from “PR stunt” to “dystopian caffeine nightmare,” but for now, we’re considering it good clean fun. Though at least one Instagram commenter made a compelling point about the value of having a real person behind the espresso machine: “u can’t flirt with a robot barista.”

Muji, 1125 Robson St.,