Robots help people with reduced mobility integrate at work
By Maria Roldan
Tokyo, Jul 2 (EFE).- Japan’s Kentaro Yoshifuji, affected by frail health, decided to create the Dawn ver.ß cafeteria, a place run by robots remotely controlled by people with reduced mobility, in an attempt to help them integrate at work and in society.
Uhsan works as a waitress, attending tables with the help of Orihime-D, a 1.2-meter tall android robot that moves through a circuit made up of digital codes strategically placed on the floor.
The robot gives this woman suffering from angina pectoris the opportunity to work in the Japanese capital from her home in Fukuoka, more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away.
Besides Uhsan, the cafe provides more than 40 others with diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), spinal injuries, paralysis, myasthenia gravis, or other neuroneal conditions that restrict them to their bed or their homes with an opportunity that – in the words of its promoter – seeks to “eliminate loneliness”.
Orihime-D is not a robot with artificial intelligence. Equipped with a front camera and microphone, each android has an operator, nicknamed “pilot”, who controls it from home or hospital with a touch-sensitive device or one guide by eye movements.
Normally one can hear the voice of the controller but there are also artificial voices for those who have speech problems.
Inaugurated in Tokyo’s Nihombashi district on Jun.21, Avatar Robot Cafe DAWN ver.ß is the materialization of a concept that began to develop five years ago and has come to fruition through a micropatronage campaign in which it raised 400 percent more than the target budget.
The establishment is a hybrid concept. Apart from a conventional coffee shop that is wheelchair accessible, there is a restaurant area where eight Orihime terminals attend to clients.
One can also ask for a coffee or chocolate from a “telebarista” remotely controlled by an ALS patient who can once again return to his beloved profession.
Kudo is another employee of the cafe, who works from Aomori in the north. Despite a heart disease caused by Marfan syndrome, he is able to explain items on the menu, take orders and chat with diners.
Kusumi Atsumi, a 48-year-old entrepreneur known to frequently visit the establishment, is well aware of the isolation these people face, especially since her father too has a disability and is unable to take part in activities outside his house.
DAWN ver.ß “is a wonderful project, because probably these people would not have imagined that they could increase their social contacts in addition to working,” Atsumi told EFE.
“Not having opportunities to communicate with these people, it sometimes makes us embarrassed, because we don’t know how far we can go asking about their disease, but (this way) allows us to get closer to them. It may allow them to integrate into society,” she reflected.
Michio worked at one of the Orihime terminals providing informing about the project and also where one can rent these devices for other people with reduced mobility far away to enjoy a chat or a “walk” around the area.
The 36-year-old, suffering from a somatic symptom disorder, attended to queries from this reporter from his home in Hiroshima in the west.
“Of late I’m better, but I still struggle to be in places where there are a lot of people,” said Michio. EFE