In a bid to create inclusive job opportunities for specially-abled people, a cafe in Tokyo run by robots has opened in Nihonbashi city.
Inaugurated in June this year, the Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe features real humanoid robots who patiently wait on customers and serve food and drink when ordered.
At the cafe, Michio Imai, a staff member, happily greets a customer who walks inside, but not in person. Imai is miles away in his own home, operating a robot waiter as part of an experiment in inclusive employment.
“Hello. How are you?” a small baby penguin shaped robot asks from the entrance of the cafe. "May I take your order?" it questions, as it stands next to a tablet displaying a list of curries, burgers and salads to the customer.
Imai controls this robot from his home, which is in Hiroshima (500 miles away) from the cafe. He is one of the 50 specially-abled employees who work at Dawn.
The specially designed robots present in the cafe are operated remotely by using the internet. Dawn cafe offers job opportunities to people who can’t leave their house for long hours due to childcare, physical disabilities or other reasons.
The cafe currently employs workers across Japan and overseas, as well as a few staff who work on site. Apart from that, there are around 20 miniature robots with cute almond-shaped eyes who move around the space.
These perfectly designed robots are named as OriHime; they come with a microphone, a speaker and cameras to allow operators or staff to communicate with customers remotely.
According to Techxplore report, this cafe was initially supposed to open last year to coincide with the Paralympics taking place. But the cafe's opening got delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The project is the brainchild of Kentaro Yoshifuji. Yoshifuji is an entrepreneur and co-founder of the company Ory Laboratory, which manufactures the robots.