A pop-up cafe will open in Tokyo's Akasaka district in November that will feature robot waiters that are remotely controlled from home by people with severe physical disabilities. The café will utilize OriHime-D robots that are controlled by disabled people with conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a form of motor neuron disease.
An OriHime-D robot, operated remotely by a disabled person at home, serves customers at a cafe in a trial of the robots operating systems. Photo courtesy of Ory Labs
The OriHime-D robot waiters are 1.2 meters tall and weighing 20 kilograms. They will transmit audio and video via the Internet, allowing their controllers to direct them from home via tablets or computers.
Kentaro Yoshifuji, Chief Executive Officer of Ory Lab. Inc., the developer of the robots said at the OriHime-D’s debut in August that "I want to create a world in which people who can't move their bodies can work too." At the debut event in August, a robot controlled by a worker from her home was able to ask customers if they wanted chocolate and other sweets.
According to the Ory Lab website, Yoshifuji, the CEO of the company, suffered from a stress-induced illness during his childhood and as a result, had difficulty communicating with other people. Based upon his personal experience of social isolation, he started developing robots at Waseda University to help connect people.
Smaller OriHime robots that are 21.5 centimeters tall and weigh about 600 grams have been introduced to 70 companies for telecommuting. Students, who can’t attend school due to illness, or other reasons, can also use these robots remotely in classrooms.
The OriHime robot for personal communications – Photo courtesy of Ory Labs
Ory Lab. plans to set up a permanent cafe prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics that will feature OriHime robots. The company hopes that exposure during the Olympics will increase awareness and adoption by companies who are open to working with disabled workers on a remote basis.
Masatane Muto, an ALS patient and one of the organizers of the project, said, "Everyone should have the freedom to work in the way they like. I want to send out the message toward 2020 that you can show hospitality even if you have disabilities."