Cafe opens in Tokyo staffed by robots controlled by paralyzed people


Dawn is an inspirational marriage of technology and humanity.

On 26 November, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held in the Nippon Foundation Building in Akasaka, Tokyo for a very special kind of cafe.

Called Dawn ver.β, it’s staffed entirely with robot waiters. While these days that’s hardly something new, these aren’t mere robots.

Developed by Ory, a startup that specializes in robotics for disabled people, the OriHime-D is a 120 cm (4-foot) tall robot that can be operated remotely from a paralyzed person’s home. Even if the operator only has control of their eyes, they can command OriHime-D to move, look around, speak with people, and handle objects.

▼ This video shows how an ALS patient, unable to speak, can use his eyes to type messages that can then be spoken by the OriHime-D robot.

▼ And here another paralyzed man using a OriHime-D serves a coffee.

Created in a collaboration between Ory, NPO Nippon Foundation, and airline ANA, Dawn ver.β is designed to resemble the titular cafe from the 2008 anime Time of Eve, which is also contributing to the project.

▼ Time of Eve depicts a cafe in which robots and humans interact as equals

However, as the “beta” in its name suggests, this is a limited run and will only remain open until 7 December.

During this time a staff of ten people, with conditions such as ALS or spinal cord injuries and working from home, are paid 1,000 yen (US$8.80) an hour (a standard wage for part-time work in Japan) to serve up coffee and interact with the clientele. But more importantly than money, these people are also given a newfound independence.

Prior to the cafe’s opening, a crowdfunding drive was held on Japanese site Makuake where it more than doubled its goal of 1.5 million yen ($13,000). If the support continues to come in, it is hoped that a full-fledged Dawn will open in 2020.

However, to achieve that they still need as much support as people can give. So, if you’re in the Tokyo area, there’s still time to stop by and buy several cups of coffee.

In an age where people complain that robots are taking all the jobs, it’s nice to see an instance of robots giving people jobs for a change, especially in such a meaningful way.

Cafe Information Dawn ver.β Address: Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka 1-2-2, Nippon Foundation Bldg. 1F 東京都港区赤坂日本財団ビル1F Open: 26-30 November, 3-7 December

Hours: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Source: Ory, Makuake, PR Times, Sankei Photo
Images: PR Times