The Starbucks Roastery is an experiential shrine to coffee passion. Why not bring technology to the table?

AKQA’s New Business Development team enlisted the help of the SPARK team—a cross-functional internal team of ux, dev, and designers—to find an opportunity where technology could enhance the Roastery customer’s experience.

To generate as many ideas possible in a short timeframe, we ran a classic UX ‘Crazy Eight’ exercise. Once we covered a wall in ideas, we voted and landed on a concept that would truly enhance customers’ experience: a smart tasting tray that gently nudges the consumer to take a sip of coffee when new flavor notes are present, at the exact right tasting temperature.

The Prototype

As we honed in on what our ‘smart tasting tray’ would be like, we all agreed that the experience shouldn’t be overly intrusive and should seamlessly blend with the existing tasting experience. The below captures our final product, complete with an aesthetic temperature reader and smart mug.

Together with Ethan Ouimet and Colin Williams (a self-professed Coffee Aficionado), we set out to create a fully working prototype of the digital serving tray and mug, based on the shape and dimensions of the actual wooden tray used in the Roastery. What resulted wasn’t pretty, but it was functional.

Because technology was necessary, we couldn’t use a store-bought ceramic mug. Instead, we 3D-printed a coffee mug and detachable base with ample room for a temperature sensor, an Arduino Pro Mini (a microcontroller board), and a battery.

The mug wirelessly transmitted fluid temperature to the Arduino board in the base of the tray. The temperature was represented on a strip of bright white LEDs in the base of the serving tray. Diffused by a sheet of translucent white acrylic and masked by black vinyl, the temperature of the liquid showed up through the veneer on the base of the serving tray.

The team
  • Jason Glover (User Experience Director), Erich Quist (Senior User Experience Designer)
  • Colin Williams (Senior Developer)

Additional thanks to entire AKQA SPARK team that participated in early ideation. Email me if I forgot you!