In recent years, we have seen machines and robots gradually taking over jobs to either cut down on manpower, save some costs or simply improve efficiency. For Japan’s Mos Burger, at their Osaki branch in Tokyo, they have employed a robot cashier called OriHime. However, it is not to replace their human staff; rather, it is to help employees who are unable to leave the house due to sickness.
Despite OriHime being a robot, she is still dressed with an apron, a cap and a “wakaba mark” — literally young leaf — which helps identify trainees. By remote controlling OriHime, the employees who cannot commute can continue to work and earn an income. According to the Tokyo-based manufacturer Ory Lab, OriHime will be operated in shifts by a worker in Osaka prefecture and another in Hyogo prefecture.
Although the two employees were said to be “unable to leave their homes due to illness”, the specific natures of their illnesses were not revealed. Regardless, an initiative like this, especially during the coronavirus period, is a plausible attempt to help the service industry. Be it because the employees are required to be quarantined at home or simply because it helps to minimise human contact, this programme seems to offer a win-win situation. Furthermore, employers can resume business and need not hire and re-train staff — it is a quadruple win!
To top it off, operating OriHime is easily done using a smartphone. After setting up the robot and connecting it to the WiFi, users can login to the app and perform the necessary tasks. OriHime is very flexible with a set of standard movements like nodding, raising its hand, clapping and waving. Her head, where the camera sits in, is also able to pan around either using the on-screen controllers or just moving your smart device!
Regarding this one-month pilot programme, which will last till the end of August, some found it to be a wonderful initiative and hoped this can help promote employment of people with disabilities too. Others said there is no need to worry about the coronavirus if the shop staff is a robot.
One of them teased, “I want to try asking ‘Which ones on the menu do not have mayonnaise in them?’ It would be fun to see how OriHime answers with gestures. Please come to an outlet near my place.”
While most found OriHime to be cute, some actually found her to be scary-looking or even looking like an alien! Nonetheless, as OriHime is currently only working at the Osaki branch, many were hoping she can be employed in other Mos Burger outlets as well.