People With Paralysis Control the Robot Waiters at This Cafe

People with paralysis are finding their way back into the workforce — thanks to a four-foot-tall robot.

On November 26, a pop-up cafe unlike any other opened in Tokyo, Japan. Instead of employing human waiters, or even autonomous robot waiters, this cafe features robot waiters controlled remotely by people with paralysis — a mind-bending experiment about the future of work, disability, and technology.

Dawn of a New Era

The cafe, Dawn ver.β, is a joint venture between All Nippon Airways, the Nippon Foundation, and Ory, a Japanese robotics startup. Ory created the robots used at Dawn, which a person can instruct to move, speak, or carry objects simply by moving their eyes in certain ways.

Ten paralyzed individuals each earn the equivalent of $8.80 per hour to work at Dawn through their robot avatars. Several companies contributed the funds for the project, with crowdsourcing helping to raise the rest.