IBM’s Latest Pie-in-the-Sky Idea: A.I. Drone-Delivered Coffee

The continuous and long-running tech revolution has delivered to consumers a whole raft of products and services we didn't know we needed until someone came along and provided them. (Think Twitter, mobile banking, smartphones, just to name a few.)

But in this segment from the Market Foolery podcast, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool Asset Management's Bill Barker consider the latest plan revealed by IBM (NYSE: IBM) through patent applications it recently filed: a coffee-delivering flying drone that can anticipate when you're going to need a refill.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Aug. 27, 2018.

Chris Hill: According to paperwork filed with our neighbors at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, IBM has secured a patent for a coffee drone that not only flies around public spaces to deliver coffee; it also predicts when you will need the coffee. What do we think about this? My initial excitement about this story quickly waned, I have to admit, even though I'm someone who drinks a whole heck of a lot of coffee, I just thought, I'm not entirely sure what problem this is solving for me personally. I could see this working. Kudos to the people at IBM for having the foresight on this one. But I don't know that I need a coffee drone. Were you excited by this?

Bill Barker: I was entertained by it more than anything. I think that it is humorous to think of drones flying around, delivering hot coffee to people. What could go wrong with that picture?

Hill: [laughs] Right. Delivering hot coffee and not scalding anyone.

Barker: Yeah. I mean, it needs to be hot. Now, maybe that's part of the patent, the heating technology. Because you don't want coffee coming from someplace too far away and having it cooling down on you. I don't want this coffee delivered if it's room temperature. Why am I going to pay for that?

Hill: And you want it the way you want it. Every one of us who drinks coffee -- and by that, I mean all us healthy people -- we like our coffee a certain way. It has to be the way that we like it. To your point, it has to be hot. It has to be with a really secure lid so it's not spilling on the people in the public spaces.

Barker: Yes, this is why Starbucks did not have this patent. They cannot be trusted to deliver coffee with secure lids.

Hill: [laughs] That is an issue with Starbucks.

Barker: Where was your initial excitement about this? You said it's waned. At peak excitement, where were you?

Hill: Peak excitement was seeing the story last week and just saying, "Fantastic! We're getting coffee, the healthiest beverage on the planet, we're getting it to more people, more quickly. This is great! I love this!"

Barker: "Finally, drones that are not inflicting war on people. Finally, we're turning them to peace."

Hill: Right.

Barker: That's where you were.

Hill: This is not the war. This is not the Rise of the Machines. This is, these are the helpful robots who are going to bring everyone coffee. But then I just thought about my own life. I like coffee, a lot, but I also enjoy walking to get coffee. I enjoy the ritual of coffee. I don't need it to be delivered to me.

Barker: What if the coffee were delivered by land vehicle, rather than by drone? If it was one of these robots that rolls around the floor --

Hill: Like they have on the Death Star?

Barker: Yeah. "May I get you some coffee, sir?" And it's right behind you, and you're like, "Oh, yeah." And the drone knows how you like it, too. I mean, I trust the drone or the robot to make the coffee better than the man or woman behind the counter. They have no artificial intelligence. They have actual intelligence.

Hill: And it doesn't always work.

Barker: Yeah. They're like, "Let me just put, you know, half a canister of sugar in there for you, because that's how the last person liked it."

Hill: I think that I'm probably more bullish on that, on a small vehicle that's going to go around and deliver coffee.

Barker: Well, the patent office is right down the street. I see an opportunity for you.

Hill: I don't have the technical spec design capability. I don't have the science behind this. I mean, that's a great idea, but I don't think that's how filing for patents works.

Barker: Just get the IBM patent. It's been filed. Then just replace all the drones with rolling robots.

Hill: Do you see where the propellers are? Flip that, and it's going to be wheels, and it's just going to go around.

Barker: And it's going to be friendlier than the IBM drones. I mean, they're not shooting people, which is a step up for the drones, in terms of branding their friendlier futures.

Hill: You don't think Watson comes off as kind of friendly in those IBM commercials? Kind of friendly!

Barker: I'm just saying, the drone I'm picturing is not that friendly, on the air delivery. The rolling one, I think there's more -- maybe it's in the form of a dog.

Hill: It could be. A dog on wheels.

Barker: Well, like one of those Bugs Bunny St. Bernard dogs. A St. Bernard, and instead of whiskey or whatever it had in the little barrel that was around its collar, it's got coffee.

Hill: Well, you know what we really need to do is have a dog on wheels deliver coffee in the morning, and then at some point in the afternoon -- and by that, I mean like 12:05 -- it flips over to whiskey.

Barker: Well, there are those who say -- scientists, even, they're purported to be -- and they're saying that maybe alcohol is not as good for you as coffee. You've seen those reports, and they've angered you.

Hill: I've seen those reports. I think we're going to tackle that in an upcoming Apropos of Nothing episode. I think that's where that treatment needs to go.

Barker: Yeah, along with the robot St. Bernards?

Hill: Possibly, yeah.

Bill Barker has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Chris Hill owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Starbucks. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.