This month, the Dawn Avatar café was opened in Tokyo which used remotely controlled robots to serve customers.
The best part? All of them were controlled by people with severe physical disabilities. The goal was to help them gain more independence in their lives.
In total, there were 10 people working at the café. They were mostly people suffering from amyothropic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Or Stephen Hawking? It’s the same condition.
The employees operated 4-foot robots called by Ory Labs called OriHime-D from their homes and were paid 1,000 yen ($9) per hour.
For now, this was only a trial run.
Unfortunately, the café remained open only for two weeks. Because for now, this was only a test.
Yet, the story probably won’t end here.
The organizations behind the project, including the Nippon Foundation and ANA Holdings Inc., aim to launch a permanent café by the time the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics roll around.
Fine, fine, now tell me more about the robots!
The robots were controlled in a similar way that Stephen Hawking used to control his hi-tech wheelchair—by tracking eye movements.
In this way, the employees were able to move robots, make them pick up objects and even talk to customers.
At the same time, the Dawn Avatar café, is only a part of a bigger trend in Japan, thanks to which robots are being increasingly used in the food industry.
For instance, Sony recently showed off its vision of the home robot chef and has teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University to develop food robots. And Softbank recently hooked up with Toyota to form MONET, a venture that will build autonomous vehicles to do things like deliver robot-made meals.
Robots as a way out for the imprisoned mind.
All right, all of that might not sound like much of a deal to you, if you’re healthy.
On the other hand, when you’re entirely paralysed, can’t move a finger or say a word, it becomes huge.
Because your mind is still racing as if nothing happened. It’s just that with ALS, your body acts more like a prison, rather than a dependable part of your own being.