In a café in Japan, guests are served by robots. However, these are not controlled by algorithms, but by paralyzed people. As a result, the remote-controlled robots have a personality towards the guests – and their operators have the opportunity to participate in the normal working life.
The feared replacement of human labor with machines opens for opportunities for others to regain professional independence. Dawn ver.β is a pop-up café based on the 2008 Anime Time of Eve featuring OryHime-D robots from Ory. The 1.2-meter tall humanoids can be controlled by humans, even if they are only able to move their eyes.
So that people suffering from ALS or other diseases affecting the motor nervous system could return to work, the café had the following idea: It got robots that could be remotely controlled by paralyzed people. So they indirectly serve the guests. In total, ten physically disabled people work in the pop-up café. They take orders, serve food and drinks and ensure that guests have a good time in the café.
The ten disabled employees behind the robots work partially from their homes. They have different limitations, from nervous disease ALS to spinal cord injury – but they can still serve as waiters via telepresence via the robots. They earn the usual hourly wage of 1000 yen in Japan for part-time jobs, the equivalent of about €7.80.
The aim of the project, however, is not to get cheap labor, but to offer employees social participation that would otherwise not be possible. Especially the interaction with customers is very important. The café was initially only open for a week, but the minds behind the project are hoping for a permanent establishment from the year 2020 onwards. This would make a future with robots, despite all automation, at least partially human.