A café in Tokyo is taking work from home to entirely new levels. Called the “Avatar Robot Café,” it’s filled with robots who are a part of the staff. But, instead of the robots being run by artificial intelligence, the robots are controlled by people with disabilities.
The café says its goal is “to create and share opportunities for those who want to work, but cannot do so due to their medical or physical conditions.”
The first of its kind, a café run like this could create a future for people with disabilities to earn an income, meet new people, and participate in society through the robots they control.
You can watch the short (:30) promo video here. It shows the robots and the café concept.
Turning this into a story, what if there’s a lonely young man who works as a robot operator, but he’s not disabled? He knows it’s wrong and feels terrible, but he justifies his fake disabilities throughout the story.
A Holden Caulfield-type, from The Catcher in the Rye.
At first, we think there’s nothing weird about his situation. He lives in a large city, withdrawn from society. A loner, cynical about the world, and a compulsive liar.
A young female grocery store clerk takes an interest in him, and we start seeing more of his life behind the veil. He tries pretending he has some “unknown illness” that prevents him from working outside of being a robot pilot, but in reality, he just doesn’t want to interact with people face to face.
We find out that in the past, he actually learned sign language so he could pretend to be deaf and learned to read braille to pretend to be blind before he found the robot pilot jobs.
He works at two different robot establishments, and he confuses the disability he’s supposed to have, saying he has ALS instead of muscular dystrophy. So the company fires him, and he starts a hunt for a new second robot pilot job, pretending he has a disability again.
He and the grocer start spending a lot of time together in his extra free time—as friends, with no romantic undertones. She finds out about his strange predicament and convinces him to go with her to a group where everyone is deaf, and he discovers that he enjoys signing with people in person.
Uncomfortable with the relationship, the main character moves away from his home without telling the grocer, getting a second job while lying and saying he has the same disability from the first job. The novel ends with him walking past the grocery and looking in at his abandoned friend, signing goodbye.