These Japanese robots might seem like something out of a spooky sci-fi flick, but they’re actually offering a new kind of freedom to disabled caterers.
The Dawn Ver café in Tokyo is testing a pilot program that allows people who are unable to work in a restaurant setting to continue pursuing their passion for catering by controlling robots.
The OriHime-D robots were originally created to help patients around their homes – but the developers are also now using them to explore how they can generate income and offer social interaction to the disabled.
“If the people operating the robots feel the joy of serving customers and working in a café, I think it’s wrong to leave that to AI,” said Kentaro Yoshifuji, the CEO of Ory Lab Inc.
The Dawn Ver café robots are controlled by 10 workers, all of whom experience a variety of physically-limiting conditions, such as ALS and spinal cord injuries. The workers are paid roughly $9 an hour to pilot the robots around the restaurant, talk to customers, take food orders, and serve meals.
Though the café will only be open for a short period of time to test the program, the robotics company responsible for the initiative hopes to raise enough money through a crowdfunding campaign to launch a permanent robot café for the disabled by 2020.
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