Most articles about robots show a shiny machine with a smiley face trying very hard to provide some trivial service to a human. Most examples end up just being marketing hype and novelties that have little practical use. But I did come across an example where shiny robots with smiley faces were actually doing something really, really valuable. A restaurant in Tokyo called DAWN uses the robots to serve customers, but the amazing part is that the robots are controlled by disabled people who are largely bedridden or house-bound.

The cafe gives opportunities, employment and a sense of purpose to people who would normally struggle to find work. Through the robots they can interact with the customers and, importantly, feel that they are contributing to society and the economy. After some ‘pop-up’ trials, the initial restaurant site is now permanent. This is such a great model on so many levels – imagine the same idea being applied to other industries including manufacturing and retail. At last, a really good use for all those shiny, smiley robots.

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