The Robots are Coming and They’re Bringing … Coffee?

It seems that every day we are faced with yet another article about how, from factory workers and money managers to dermatologists and retail workers, robots are coming for our jobs. But don’t worry, this is not one of those articles!

Whether you’d rather not think about the future or are already working on a cover letter addressed to our new robot overlords, there are plenty of ways that automation is already beginning to impact, for the better, the office environment as we know it. Take a look:


The office of the future may actually transform itself, based on your calendar or your heart rate. Researchers at the MIT Media Lab have explored furniture with sensors and engines that can shift based on your day or needs. Imagine: a desk that expands to become a conference table or walls that fall from the ceiling triggered by an upcoming meeting. Even furniture that could note if you’ve been sitting for a long time and prompt you to stand. Already such modular, robotic furniture is available for the home market (spoiler alert, Murphy beds are out, sky beds are in).

Stress detectors

MIT researchers also envision a future office where employees’ workstations come equipped with “mediated atmosphere platforms,” or technology that tracks things like facial expression, gaze, temperature, and respiration to automatically adjust the office environment. Mood lighting or projected images of a bustling coffee shop or a creek in the woods could be just what you need to foster creativity, calmness or focus. The idea sounds a little bit like a scene from 1984 but MIT researchers see the benefits of helping people de-stress, focus and work more comfortably.

Robot office personnel

Other office technology is on the rise. There’s Knightscope in Mountain View, which built a 300-pound security guard robot called K5. It can “see” license plates, analyze faces, scan areas with laser beams, and sound alarms if there’s a need for real human intervention. Another company, Avidbots, sells Roomba-like robots for commercial spaces that use laser mapping and coordinated, swarm-like communications to clean floors. Some experts predict that by 2030, your espresso machine might be programmed to wheel itself into a room to provide refreshment to teams in need of a flood of ideas and caffeine. If that’s the case, then maybe a future filled with robots doesn’t look so bad. That is, if donuts and scones are included.