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This Robot Painted My Nails: Clockwork's Manicure Machines Are Adding Functions

Clockwork's machines paint nails in 10 minutes for $10 and are a game-changer for manicures on-the-go.

How do you make beauty services a little more like fast food?

That's the question that Renuka Apte says led her team to create the Clockwork nail-painting robot, now at six Target stores across the US. The CEO and founder says the machine will be expanding to even more locations next year, and the next models will be able to do even more -- including removing polish and applying a clear top-coat of paint -- all without a human assistant. 

A 10-minute express manicure sounded like a dream to me as a busy working mom, as it can be a hassle to carve out time for a typical 45-minute-long manicure. I gave the machine a spin and was pleasantly surprised at the quality. And it lasted a week!  A human attendant is at the machines right now, but that may not be the case for the next version of the machine. 

A woman in a green shirt showing her hands with red nails

The results are in.

CNET

Think of Clockwork as a big printer. You insert a cartridge of nail paint, after choosing from 25 colors. A screen instructs you to insert a finger to be scanned and to keep still. With your voice command "ready," a robotic arm lowers and quickly covers the nail bed in a coat, going around in a spiral. 

"There are so many times you just want something quick, something in and out, and that's a problem [...] we really wanted to solve for," Apte said in an interview over Zoom.

It isn't a pampering experience -- no nail cutting or filing -- but it certainly does a better job at painting than I can do at home. It makes perfect sense as a service you could pop into before your flight at the airport, or as a perk in the company break room, or to get quick new color before a date night. You can see how it works in the video above.