Between the commitment of time, money and awkward small talk, getting my nails done isn’t high on my list of preferred activities. I’ve also never quite mastered the art of DIY nails.
But is there an option out there to both get a decent manicure and negate the reasons I haven’t had one in over five years?
To attempt to answer this question, I headed to LinkedIn's office building in SoMa, where I’d heard rumors of a robot giving manicures in the ground-floor open space.
The rumors are true.
The high rise at 222 Second St. houses the social media company LinkedIn, but its ground floor also serves as a POPOS, or a privately owned and maintained space free for the public to use. This POPOS boasts ample seating and tables, Frank Stella artworks, free Wi-Fi and now, apparently, this robot manicurist.
The Clockwork MiniCure station is hard to miss. While the self-advertised “nail technician” looks more like a printer or a coffee machine at first glance, glaring signage surrounding it with quips like “10 nails, 10 minutes, 10 bucks” almost beg you to challenge its proposal of convenience.
So I did.
How It Works
The booking process doesn’t involve any human contact. You simply scan a QR code, select your preferred time slot from the website and then wait. Once it’s time, you sit in a chair facing the machine and confirm on its touch screen that you’re ready to begin. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in an appointment within 15 minutes of arriving, given there was not one other person nearby that seemed remotely interested.
I started to question whether I had gotten the scoop for some hidden gem, or if there was a very legitimate reason I was able to secure a spot with such ease.
Once in the chair, there’s an eye-level touch screen guiding you through the whole process, from picking one of the robot’s 30 color options to instructing you to stop fidgeting.
Your nails are locked into a hand rest one at a time, and after a brief second of the machine scanning the nail’s size and shape, the polish dispenses—first tracing the outline of your nail and filling it in from there.
How It Went
Like trying to endure the struggle of a phone call with a robot operator, the nonhuman nail technician posed annoyances that simply would not phase a real person.
Its main trip-up, which could be described as both a pro and a con, is how sensitive it is to movements, even tiny ones. On one hand, I understand programming in that extra precaution—and I’ll admit I don’t sit still all too well. However, me adjusting a wedgie with my free hand probably wouldn’t have bothered a human nail technician the way it did the machine.
In the end, my manicure didn’t take as little as 10 minutes; I frequently took advantage of its offer of unlimited redos. I was done closer to the 20 minute mark, which is how much time you are allotted per appointment.
Though quicker than what I could do myself, its quality was about on par with a home manicure, plus the supplemental $10 fee and extreme awkwardness of being pampered in public.
Would you try out this robot manicure?💅#nails #sf #sanfrancisco #sftech #bayarea #thingstodoinsf #thingstodoinbayarea #sfstandard♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim
LinkedIn and Clockwork were both contacted for comment on the robot manicurist, though neither responded in time for publication.
Morgan Ellis can be reached at [email protected]