Over the last few years, several strides have been made in the realm of robotics. From smart planters to submersible drones, these innovations are designed to make life easier for their operators. This intention is particularly true at Dawn ver.β, a pop-up cafe staffed by automatons that offer agency to “those who have difficulty working.”
Developed by Kentaro Yoshifuji—the CEO of Ory Laboratories—the OriHime-D is a server that relies on remote control. What sets this four-foot-tall bot apart from other robo-waiters, however, is the fact that it is operated purely by people who are paralyzed.
Working from wheelchairs and beds, ten disabled individuals took turns controlling three OriHime-D robots during Dawn ver.β’s eight-day run in 2018. Using computers, they were able to command each cafe-based bot to move, speak, and serve—even if their own mobility was limited to eye movements.
In exchange for their service, each operator was paid 1,000 yen (around $8.80) an hour. More important than money, however, each individual was given the opportunity to connect with others and, in turn, reconnect with themselves. “I was very happy because I could talk to people and make them happy,” Hiroki Okabe, who suffers from ALS, said. “I found myself again thanks to my avatar.”
While Dawn ver.β closed on December 7, 2018, Kentaro Yoshifuji hopes to open a permanent space by 2020.