A new Tokyo cafe is staffed by robots that are remotely controlled by people with severe physical disabilities.
The cafe, which has the catchy name of Dawn ver.β, utilizes five OriHime-D robot waiters, which take orders and serve food at the cafe. The high-tech radio-controlled robots are designed so people with disabilities, spinal cord injuries, or diseases like ALS can operate them from home. They transmit audio and video footage wirelessly to the robot’s controller, who can direct them via tablets or computers, Japan Today reports. If robot avatar waiters aren’t cool enough, Sora News says the café is also designed to look like the café from the 2008 anime Time of Eve, where robots and humans interact as equals.
The cafe stems from a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation, ANA Holdings Inc., and Ory Lab Inc., who makes the robots. The idea was to help get people stuck at home back into the workforce, offering part-time jobs and minimum wage (1,000 yen per hour) and some independence, too. It’s not much money-wise, but the hope is that it will give people traditionally sidelined from the workforce a way to be involved or at least give them something a little different to do in their spare time. “The robots enable physical work and social participation,” Kentaro Yoshifuji, CEO of Ory Lab, said at a press conference.
This iteration of the cafe is only temporary, closing on December 7, but the partners hope to launch a permanent cafe before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics and come up with new ways to promote employment assistance for people with disabilities.