woman s pink pedicure

Clockwork made a robot for quick manicures

I love getting manicures, but I don’t always have the time or budget for them. Doing it at home is also a different commitment, and I don’t do it as well as the professionals. So, the idea behind Clockwork’s robots is very intriguing to me. 

The company promises a 10-minute robot manicure for USD 10. They now have manned kiosks at six Target stores across the US, with plans to bring it to more locations in the coming year. It’s not yet a fully automated or robotic experience, but nail painting certainly is. 

Clockwork’s process

You will need to book and pay for your appointment first online. First-time customers get a USD 2 discount. You can think of Clockwork’s machine as a giant printer for your nails. It requires a cartridge of nail paint, which you pick from the 25 colors offered. 

The machine relies on cameras, data, and algorithms to get the job done. You need to place your digits one at a time on the finger rest before sliding it into the machine. Cameras will take around 100 pictures of your nail to determine its shape and help the robot locate its edges. Algorithms will use this data to determine how the polish-dispensing disposable pipette should move and how fast it should go to apply paint on your nail.

Clockwork robot manicure
Jesse Meria/Courtesy Clockwork

These nail photos are added to a dataset to help Clockwork improve its nail-painting software. And that information comes in handy for developing the robot. It needs to take note of things like the steepness of your nails, changing viscosity of nail polish, and others to properly apply the polish.

When the machine has captured your nail data, it responds to the voice command “ready.” The robotic arm will then lower and cover your nail bed with the polish in a spiral motion.

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Clockwork CEO and founder Renuka Apte said they initially experimented with using brushes to apply the polish instead of the pipette. However, they opted out because brushes tend to harden and can harbor bacteria if they aren’t cleaned properly, among other reasons.

A human attendant is present for now to help explain the process and clean up any missteps made by the machine. It also won’t do any extras you typically get when you get your nails done. It can’t file your nails, remove polish, or add a protective top coat. But polish removal and top-coat application are coming to Clockwork’s machines “pretty soon”—and without human attendants. Apte said most painting issues they’ve encountered are due to people moving a bit after the machine takes photos and right before the nails are painted.

Who is it for?

Clockwork isn’t aiming to replace sit-down manicures. It wants to be that middle ground between that costly and time-consuming activity and the do-it-yourself session at home. With the promise of a 10-minute manicure, it works for any on-the-go person who wants a quick manicure. I’d find a lot of use out of them if they’ve ever made their way here.

woman with black manicure holding white and grey floral ceramic cup
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

If it is in your area, head to Clockwork’s site to book an appointment and get more information.


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