Making an International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a day that promotes the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities is a great thing but it’s not enough. There are a lot of Innovation projects that succeeded to make those people more effective and feel more confident. A cafe in Japan that uses robots not only for the purpose of modernity. But also to make a difference, by integrating technology and inclusion in a unique type of café.
Diverse Avatar Working Network (DAWN), is a café managed by humanoid robots waiting on customers and serving food and drink. These robots are avatars for the pilots, who operate the robots remotely through the internet.
How these remote-controlled robots work
Those pilots are people with physical disabilities such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s illness. People who can’t leave the house for long periods due to childcare or for other reasons. No matter what the situation they had, in a wheelchair or even in bed, they can use a mouse, iPad, or gaze-controlled remote to control the robots.
So the soul of the café is to create more job opportunities for disabled workers who feel invisible in a homogeneous society.
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The DAWN café is the latest innovation of Ory Laboratory Inc. It’s a Japanese robotics company working to create an accessible society. Kentaro Yoshifuji, the co-founder and CEO of the company, spent three years in the hospital that made him feel useless. So he decided to design remote-controlled robots avatars to help people get rid of painful thoughts of disability.
“The aim of the cafe was to create and share opportunities for those who want to work, but cannot do so due to their medical or physical conditions” by using “technology as a means to lower the many obstacles that prevent people from participating evenly in society”. Yoshifuji said
The 120cm tall OriHime-D robots are equipped with a camera, microphone, and speaker. The user can communicate with both real speech sound and speech synthesis. This will help people how to have difficulties in speaking and communication.
In the cafe, robots are greeting people when walking in. Then another robot came with the menu. From taking orders to serving food, and even clearing up the tables.
You can see OriHime-D robots throughout Japan. They work as guides at departmental stores, transport stations, and corporate offices.