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Tokyo Cafe’s Robot Waiters Operated Remotely by Staffers with Disabilities | Frommer's Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe

Tokyo Cafe’s Robot Waiters Operated Remotely by Staffers with Disabilities

We usually think of robots as taking jobs away from humans, but the opposite is true at a new cafe in Tokyo

Opened June 22 in the city's Nihonbashi area, Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe uses a fleet of mobile, 4-foot-tall robot waiters to serve customers coffee, tea, sandwiches, salads, rice bowls, and sweets. 

(Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe)

That's not even the most innovative part of the business, though. The robots are designed to be operated remotely by staffers with disabilities that can keep them from leaving home.  

Developed by Ory Laboratory, a company dedicated to tackling social isolation with technology, each OriHime-D bot is equipped with a camera, microphone, and speaker allowing an employee with an internet connection at home to see and communicate with customers at the cafe. 

The robots can move forward and backward, execute turns, and grab and carry items. It's even possible to control the bots by eye movement if staffers need that feature. 

(Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe)

According to Time Out, Ory CEO Kentaro Yoshifuji came up with the idea for remote-controlled robot avatars after struggling with his own prolonged medical issues for nearly three years. 

The company's hope is that the cafe not only supplies job opportunities for people with disabilities but also gives them a way to connect with others. 

For tourists, the cafe is a worthy alternative to the popular and completely bonkers Robot Restaurant, which appears to have permanently closed.  

That wild dinner show, filled with flashing lights, battling robots, and dancers in revealing costumes, shuttered its shrine to sensory overload in the city's lively Shinjuku nightlife district during April 2020 due to the pandemic. 

While the venue's website still describes its closure as temporary, the building's facade was stripped in the spring, leading many to conclude that these robots have run out of juice. 

Instead, you can try Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe the next time you're in Tokyo (whenever that may be—most international tourists are currently barred from entering Japan). In contrast to the Robot Restaurant, the new business supports a good cause, won't give you a stress headache, and features actual robots rather than costumed actors.

Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe is located in the Nihonbashi Life Science Building. Visit the cafe's website to get subway directions, preview the menu, and learn more about how the technology works.