A cafe with an all-robot wait staff controlled by paralyzed people has recently concluded its eight-month experiment in Tokyo, Japan.
Ten people with a variety of conditions including spinal cord injuries and the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) were employed at Dawn Ver café, according to Sankei.
The robot's operators earned about 1,000 yen ($9) per hour - the standard rate of pay for wait staff in Japan.
From home or hospital, they operated the small fleet of OriHime-D robots used in the cafe were developed by Japanese start-up Ory and were initially designed to be used in the homes of people with disabilities.
Sankei reported that robots could be told to move, observe, communicate with guest and carry objects to tables, even if their operator can only roll their eyes.
The pilot program started in April of last year and concluded on December 7 at the Nippon Foundation Building in Minato-ku, Tokyo. Researchers collected vital data on the connections between disabled people and robots, to encourage plans of integrating people who might otherwise be housebound earn a wage and interact with other people more easily.
“If the people operating the robots feel the joy of serving customers and working in a café, I think it’s wrong to leave that to AI,” said Kentaro Yoshifuji, the CEO of Ory Lab Inc.
This experiment, done in cooperation with The Nippon Foundation, Avatar Robotic Consultative Association (ARCA), All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Ory seems to have been a limited-time event, but a new crowdfunding operation aims to open a permanent location with disabled people controlling robot servers by 2020.
Maybe disabled people controlling robots in restaurants could be the first push back against AI. As we have warned before, AI robots were built to replace low-skilled workers that could trigger economic disruption far greater than we experienced over the past eight decades. By the end of the 2020s, automation may eliminate 20% to 25% of current jobs, so by allowing disabled people today to operate robots in the service sector, well, it is a start, but it will sadly not be enough to stop the AI takeover.