Japan was quick to adopt robots and today you can find a lot of places of business that employ robots. Here are 3 different versions of robot restaurants.
If you are visiting Japan and you happen to be in Shibuya, which is a major commercial and financial center in Tokyo, you might want to head over to “Henn na Cafe” which offers an entirely robotic experience. The local barista is a very sophisticated robotic arm, designed by a NASA engineer, which was programmed to accurately imitate the movements of an award-winning coffee barista.
After choosing the drink you want from a vending machine, you receive a ticket with a QR code, which you present to the robotic barista. Unlike regular vending-machine coffee, which is usually quite bad, The Henn na cafe offers very high-quality coffee, prepared in the correct way so that the final result is just as good as a cup made by a human. Perhaps even better.
The second type of robotic restaurant you can find in Japan is a mix between robotic servers and human cooks. The “Pepper parlor”, also located in Shibuya is a restaurant offering a wide variety of dishes, all served by robots. The “Pepper” in the name “Pepper parlor” does not refer to the spice or even the vegetable, Pepper is a friendly humanoid robot capable of talking, singing, and much more. Each table has a designated pepper robot to amuse the customer and keep them entertained.
Ordering the actual food is done through an app and the food is served to the table via a serving robot. As opposed to the Henn na cafe, the order itself is still made by a staff of humans in the kitchen, but the customer only interacts with robots throughout his dining experience.
The Third Type of robotic restaurant somehow manages to blend the human and the robots together. DAWN Avatar Robot Cafe in Chuo City, Tokyo also has robotic servers that keep the customer entertained, but these robots are actually remotely operated by humans. And when we say remotely we mean from all over japan. These humans are piloting the robots from their homes and they engage with the customers as if they were actually there, waving hello, gesturing to the menu, etc.
What makes this cafe even more special is that most of the humans piloting the robots are people with disabilities and some of them are completely paralyzed and can not leave their houses. This allows them to work for a living and engage in conversation with a wide variety of people.
So from completely autonomous robots to co-bots working alongside humans to actual humans piloting robots - Japan is a great example of the types of robotic interactions we can expect to see coming to the west in the coming few years.