Zipwhip's Espresso-making Robot

A Seattle start-up takes its coffee to high-tech heights.
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What began as a search for a better coffee machine in a local start-up’s break room has evolved into the perfect Seattle combo: coffee and robots. Last winter, the employees at ZipWhip (zipwhip.com), a Queen Anne-based company focused on “cloud texting” (i.e., taking text messaging beyond the bounds of mobile devices and onto all Internet-connected devices), were faced with both an inferior coffee pot and the challenge of promoting their new cloud texting app. The result was Textpresso, a Jura Impressa XS90 espresso machine souped up with tech to accept text-messaged coffee orders. Using the Zipwhip app, staff members can text in their coffee orders (from standard Americanos to special orders).

The Textspresso then reaches out its robotic arm, grabs a cup, concocts the requested brew and tops it off with a personalized label written in the foam with edible ink (so Smith in marketing won’t steal it from Martinez in development). If you’re jonesing for a Textspresso coffeemaker for your office, good news: Zipwhip recently made the plans and coding for the machine available online as an open-source document, so enterprising addicts can build their own automated baristas. Just be warned: CEO John Lauer reports the Textspresso has increased coffee consumption at Zipwhip, and even converted a tea drinker or two. 

Watch a demonstration:

 

Milos Yiannpoulous: Ringling Brothers' Heir Apparent

Milos Yiannpoulous: Ringling Brothers' Heir Apparent

The circus may be shuttering, but the alt-right provocateur remains a sideshow
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The show goes on, in Milo Yiannpoulous' twisted, incendiary circus

Ringling Brothers circus is going out of business but the college tour of the Milos Yiannpoulous continues. In Seattle on Inauguration Night, his appearance at Kane Hall spawned demonstrations and resulted in one of his supporters—reported to be a UW student—shooting a protester. Last week in Berkeley, CA, his appearance was cancelled due to rioting. In response, President Donald Trump wondered if the University of California in Berkeley should have its federal funds cut because the college wasn’t protecting free speech.

Questions in Seattle still swirl around Yiannpoulous’ visit. Should he have been speaking on campus? Did his talk amount to hate speech, in violation of campus policy? Did the UW do enough to protect free speech and deescalate the demonstrations? Is Yiannpoulous’ message worthy of a college campus, or is he a guy looking for crowded theaters in which to yell “Fire!”?

One thing that surprised me about Yiannpoulous’ UW presentation—which is available on YouTube—is how bad it was: self-conscious, disjointed, narcissistic, nasty and unprofessional. It was as if some random guy with a head injury was trying to turn himself into a martyr. He claimed demonstrators arriving on campus were armed—that gun-toting liberals should be our worry. Have you ever heard of a liberal militia? I thought not. He assumed that the shooting outside was an armed lefty attacking one of his supporters (it was exactly the opposite). His sexist, misogynistic jokes were lame, not even worthy of Archie Bunker status. He'd like to position himself as a symbol of free speech, but his rantings and ravings sound more like a lunatic on the street corner.

Yiannpoulous rails about being held back by a lack of free speech on campuses. But here’s what he said to CNN in an interview last month: “I just want to burn it down...I am speaking on college campuses because education...is really what matters. It's a crucible where these bad ideas are formed. Bad ideas like...progressive social justice, feminists, Black Lives Matter...that I think is so cancerous and toxic to free expression.”

So he and his supporters decry violence in opposing his “free speech,” but he wants to “burn down” “cancerous and toxic” expression of ideas he doesn’t like. There is lots of ridiculous talk on campuses, left and right. But this sounds like a guy encouraging a violent outlook. And, he’s leaving nasty trolling in his wake, as one UW professor is learning. He wants to provoke those who disagree with him to market his hateful ideas.

The only free speech he is really promoting is his own. He’s building a national brand. His college tour is promoting his upcoming book (he got a $250K advance from a Simon & Schuster imprint), and he’s taking advantage of provoking controversy with new rounds of publicity. His “oppression” includes access to the Breitbart website with its ties to the White House, major media appearances, a swirl of controversy that is largely undeserved and support from the president’s Twitter account. He’ll undoubtedly make a small fortune out of “free speech.” Who says circuses are dead?