If you're tired of waiting in line at a cafe every morning while baristas struggle to take down everyone's extremely customised coffee order (example: double caramel macchiato with half soy milk, half skimmed milk, less ice, and extra caramel sauce), you might be pleased to know that a smart ordering machine could cut your wait time to mere seconds.

Alibaba Group's global research institute DAMO Academy on Wednesday unveiled a "smart-ordering" system that allows customers to place complex orders via voice, and even updates the order in real-time should there be any changes or updates.

In a demonstration, the system took a complex order of 34 coffees in 49 seconds - three times as fast as a human barista, who did the same in two minutes and 37 seconds.

Technology giants around the world are developing duplex AI assistants that can fully understand and hold a conversation with a human.


Earlier this month, Google unveiled its Google Duplex assistant, which can make phone calls to businesses on a user's behalf to make or change appointments, while Microsoft's Mandarin speaking, duplex capable social chatbot XiaoIce was demonstrated in Beijing this week.

- Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.
- This story first appeared in the South China Morning Post and was reproduced with their permission.