On June 22, Tokyo's latest café run by robots officially opened in Nihonbashi. Unlike Shinjuku’s Robot Restaurant, where humans dressed as robots put on a dinner show, Dawn Avatar Robot Café features real humanoid robots waiting on customers and serving food and drink. It's not a gimmick, though: the café operates as an accessible business by creating more job opportunities for disabled workers.
Here's how it works. These robots are operated remotely using via the internet, serving as avatars for people who can’t leave the house for long periods of time due to physical disabilities, childcare or for other reasons.
The innovative café is the latest venture of Ory Laboratory Inc, a Japanese robotics company working to create an accessible society. Company co-founder and CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji got the idea to design remote-controlled robot avatars after his own experience of being bed-ridden in hospital for the greater part of three years.
The OriHime-D robots, as they’re called, are 120cm tall and equipped with a camera, microphone and speaker to allow them to ‘speak’ and receive orders as they move around a space.
In today’s world, it’s difficult for some people to participate in society in the traditional sense due to the standardised systems employed at most companies or the physical risks involved with navigating a busy metropolis like Tokyo. The robots can be controlled just through eye-movement, so even people who are immobilised have the option of working in the café. This is a significant breakthrough as using a robot avatar can give them more opportunities to interact with others and lessen the sense of isolation that can come with disability.
Dawn Avatar Robot Café is open daily from 12pm to 7pm (last order 6.30pm). For more information, visit here.
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