Most of the OriHime robots carry around iPads so that customers get to know the person piloting the avatar.
Paralysis often restricts people's movement and confines them from living a normal lifestyle. But, a cafe in Tokyo, Japan, has found a better way for paralyzed people to earn wages and have further interactions with others, all by controlling robot waiters remotely. About 10 people with different conditions that restrict their movements are helping to regulate robots in the Dawn Ver cafe. The robot controllers earn 1000 yen ($7.66) per hour. According to BBC, it is the standard rate of waiting for staff in Japan. The project's goal is to give more independence to people with disabilities.
The robots called OriHime-D were developed by a Japanese start-up Ory. It was created with the intention to be used in the homes of people with disabilities who are restricted in their movements. The robots can be instructed to move, observe, talk to customers and carry things even if their operator can only move their eyes. These abilities have been set specifically in the robots for the work in the cafe.
Lunch at DAWN Avatar Robot Cafe with mom and Kanna 🤖🍴 Dawn is a business, where people with disabilities such as ALS work as staffs by remotely operating Orihime robots. Great food, service, and learning opportunity, highly recommend 😊 #DAWNRobotCafe pic.twitter.com/Bqd9fhNpaG— Kennard Mah (@KennardMah) May 9, 2022
The pilot scheme looks to test connections between disabled people and robots to help people who might otherwise be housebound. Reportedly, the robot controllers have a variety of conditions, including spinal cord injuries and the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
I’m at “avatar robot cafe”— tommyfountain (@tommyfountain83) October 1, 2022
the pilot works remotely and we can talk for about 30min
it was interesting experience pic.twitter.com/3OGzXeJgwJ
Initially, the Dawn Ver cafe opened for two weeks in 2018. Later, the creators opened it permanently in June 2021. Their website reads, "In our cafe, some of our staff work using our avatar robots OriHime and OriHime-D from their homes and hospitals, giving an entirely new definition to remote working. We aim to achieve a new form of social participation through the use of technology. Please visit our cafe to see what the future has to offer for all of us."
I just checked in at DAWN | Avatar Robot Cafe ver.β on @joinsuperlocal https://t.co/WVLEaJwILL pic.twitter.com/ObUsKZcmbY— おジャ魔女ふぁなみ (@fhanameee) August 12, 2022
The cafe, which is accessible and barrier-free, is usually busy with robot staff. There is reportedly a robot that greets the customers at the door, one helps them find a seat and the other tells them about the daily specials and takes the orders. And then there is apparently a Tele-Barista, a humanoid coffee artist. The health ministry of Japan states that there are more than 7% of the population lives with a disability and this is a great way to provide employment to them.
In the cafe, most OriHime robots carry iPads so that customers get to know the person piloting the avatar. "If someone is ordering a coffee at the Tele-Barista station, an expert guides through the different beans that are available and tells about the right chocolate that can be added to your choice of coffee," as reported by atlasofthefuture. Moreover, the pilots can change the eye color of their avatar depending on their mood or match it to their favorite sports team. It is mainly to reflect the personalities of the pilots.
"I’m connected to the robot cafe in Tokyo from my home here in Fukuoka. I’ve never had the chance to talk to people from far away, so I feel like I’m able to connect with society!" https://t.co/1x7lZD9U0Y https://t.co/E3saUFHH5L— David Vega (@BerimVega) January 30, 2023
Kentaro Yoshifuji, co-founder and CEO of Ory Laboratory, shared his own experience of how he was hospitalized multiple times during high school and missed school for a long time. The whole situation led him to study robotics and "use technology to ease the life of people who were not able to participate in the normal social sphere, be it work or socializing."