Robot waiters help people with disabilities have meaningful careers in Tokyo

Robot waiters are helping people suffering with disabilities in Tokyo, Japan.

People are constantly worried about robots stealing human jobs. While this may be true in some cases, a set of Japanese robots in Tokyo, Japan are helping those suffering from paralysis find meaningful careers. How so?

A pop-up shop called Dawn Café in Tokyo is using a set of remote-controlled bots to be the hands and feet of individuals suffering from paralysis. Individuals diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) often have a near impossible time finding a job. The debilitating, degenerative neurologic disease can leave a person paralyzed, yet with full brain function. Now, mini robots are making it possible for these individuals to work thanks to some awesome technology.

May I Take Your Order?

If you think Dawn Café looks familiar, that’s probably because it is. The entire operation, which is run by a robot waitstaff that is controlled by people with ALS or another form of debilitating spinal cord injury, is designed to look like the fictional café from a 2008 sci-fi anime series popular in Japan: Time of Eve.

The unique series tells the story of a world where humans and androids treat each other as equals while inside the café. Obviously, the use of robot waiters is bringing this vision to life.

Even though many are still skeptical that some sort of mechanical construction will steal human jobs, this experiment shows that it doesn’t have to be a one-way street. Although robots can replace human jobs to make them safer or more efficient, they can also create opportunities for people to work when they would otherwise not be able.

The robots in this cafe are controlled from behind the scenes by unique individuals who are coping with debilitating diseases or injuries. Though struggling in their bodies, their minds are still as active and sharp as ever. Thus, this unique opportunity gives them a chance to earn money while doing a fulfilling job.

Meet OriHime-D

The loveable, 4-foot-tall OriHime-D robots were designed by robotics startup Ory. They are equipped with cameras and speakers that allow their human operators to see and hear what the robot does. Special controllers tell the OriHime-D bots to move via the internet.

Each robot can move around the café, talk to customers, and pick up objects like coffee cups. The humans controlling them can reply in real-time by typing messages while the OriHime-D speaks these messages to customers.

The Dawn Café is completely run by these unique robots. A collaboration between Ory, NPO Nippon Foundation, and the ANA airline made the project possible.

The OriHime-D is just one of the robots making waves lately in Japan by performing everyday human tasks. Another robot recently made waves by installing drywall. The drywall-installing humanoid, the HRP-5P, represents a possible solution to the country’s manual labor shortage.

These robots seem to be the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as there are plenty more to come as they follow the path of these helpful trailblazers.