A Japanese robotics firm called Ory Labs is empowering disabled people through robotics. One of their most recent innovations is a humanoid robot dubbed OriHime, was developed originally as a proxy robot. The OriHime was created to combat the problem of loneliness, brought about by distance, a reality that is all too common in Japan. Today, Ory Labs has gone beyond this original design and is prepping the OriHime to provide an even greater function.
The diminutive robot could take the place of a person at school, or home while remotely controlled. It provides an audio and video feed allowing a controller to see and hear the immediate surroundings of the robot. An onboard speaker also allows the controller to communicate with those in the vicinity of the robot. A user can then have the OriHime move about in its immediate surroundings. With the use of a computer or tablet device, a user can have effective control of the robot, even from a distance by using the internet.
From a social perspective, this allows a distant person to experience the presence of friends or family in a manner greater than simple voice or video chat. The actual physical presence of a controlled robot allows a distant person to engage in more than visual and auditory communication. Through the OriHime they can play simple games and move about, experiencing the environment in ways that VoIP does not allow for.
The OriHime-D is also currently equipped to serve differently-abled individuals. The product was also designed to be of use for individuals diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Patients diagnosed with the condition can have severe problems with mobility. The condition hampers a person’s ability to socially interact with friends and family. As a result of their condition, many people with ALS find it difficult to be productive. The OriHime-D helps enable patients to overcome their disability.
The OriHime is able to serve as a valuable tool for individuals with ALS it does so by providing a means to interact with people and the environment. Ory Labs has even developed it sufficiently to allow individuals with varying degrees of paralysis to operate the OriHime. They can do this via speaking instructions, typing down commands or eye-gaze input, which is especially useful for those with advanced stages of ALS.
The OriHime in action
Through a fundraising drive, where Ory Labs secured over 3 million JPY, Ory Labs was able to showcase the OriHime and demonstrated its potential to the public by deploying several units for temporary use by the Dawn ver. Beta cafe in the Akasaka district of Tokyo. The technology developed by Ory Labs allowed individuals with different forms of disability to work as waiters. OryLabs deployed several of their 1.2 meters, 20kg, OriHime-D robots to directly serve customers while being controlled remotely by individuals with various mobility impairments. The demonstration ran from November 26 – December 7, 2018.
The company hopes to be able to set up a permanent cafe with a similar setup before the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics.
YouTube: 分身ロボット×イヴの時間コラボ「分身ロボットカフェDAWN ver.β」
Photo credit: All material shown is owned by Ory Labs.