Robotic Wait Staff Working on Behalf of Those with Mobility IssuesMarie Donlon | December 13, 2018
While a robotic wait staff may seem like yesterday’s news, the speed at which this technology is becoming available increases with each day. Joining recent headlines is a Japanese startup tech company that employs robotic waiters, but with a twist.
Tokyo-based tech startup Ory Lab is employing robot waiters, called OriHime-D, to serve food to customers at the Dawn Ver Beta café. Yet, these robots are controlled entirely by people with spinal cord injuries and extreme mobility issues from diseases such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
Ory Labs first introduced the robotic wait staff in the pop-up café, which is located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward. There, the staff of 10 robots, standing only 1.2 meters tall, were able to complete a full restaurant shift.
Controlled remotely via computer assistance, the system responded to the subtle eye movements of the person controlling the bot from their home. Those eye movements were then translated into the coordinated movements of the robot.
The robot wait staff was capable of picking up objects and easily moving throughout the pop-up cafe. Likewise, they were able to carry out verbal interaction with customers.
Those operating the robots received 1,000 yen ($9) an hour for their “work,” roughly the current minimum wage rate in effect for the city of Tokyo.
“I want to create a world in which people who can’t move their bodies can work too,” explained Kentaro Yoshifuji, CEO of Ory Lab.
The pop-up café is only expected to be in operation for a short time, ending some time in December. However, working in conjunction with the Nippon Foundation and ANA Holdings Inc., Ory Labs expects to launch a permanent café based on the structure of the pop-up café by the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Robots working on behalf of those who cannot puts an unexpected spin on emerging concerns about a future work force dominated by robots.