Last year, we wrote about Clockwork, a company that was working on a robot manicurist. Other companies were racing toward market readiness at the same time, but now we see that Clockwork has outflanked the others and gotten their robot manicurists into Target.
Would you let a robot do your nails?
The robot manicurists don’t Gove a full manicure. They don’t shape nails, buff them, or massage nails. They don’t create nail art or treat cuticles, use lotion, or provide gel color — in fact, they really just paint nails.
Using a database of nail shapes, AI, and 3D printing, Clockwork’s robot-maniucurists paint nails for $10 in 10 minutes. A human supervisor sticks close by to make sure the paint nozzles don’t get clogged and to clean up the edges when the robot is finished, but TikTok videos show an easy, no-fuss process.
Clockwork takes about 100 photos of each customer’s bare nails and uses AI algorithms and 3D technology to direct the machine. It pipes nail polish onto the customer’s fingernails like a baker piping icing onto a cookie, so there are no brush lines. Users say the experience is a lot like getting coffee from a Nespresso machine — insert a pod and push a button. The robot adds the photos from each customer to it database to continue improving the experience.
The process is safe, quick, and cheap.
Is Clockwork a threat to human manicurists?
The company says no. Think of the robot manicure — or, more correctly, Clockwork MiNiCURE — as a vending machine. It doesn’t take the place of a full manicure, but it offers a faster, cheaper option for people who don’t have the time or inclination for the full experience.
It’s currently available in half a dozen Target stores but could be in all the stores at some point in the future. Right now, the first appointment is just $8.00, which is a serious discount from a price which is less than half the cost of a typical manicure from a human being.
Are robot manicurists the future of nails? Chances are the MiNiCURE will be an alternative to home manicures rather than an immediate threat to salons.
Service robots vs. industrial robots
Our clients are nearly always manufacturers, industrial printers, and the like. Service robots are a newer breed. They work in less structured settings and interact more closely with human beings. Safety is a primary consideration.
That’s certainly true for a robot manicurist. Just last week a chess playing robot broke a child’s finger. So far, Clockwork has seen no safety issues.