For three days between October 7 and 9, in a quiet side street in Akihabara, Tokyo, the rental cafe Cafe Triomphe was the scene for a world-first event, a temporary maid cafe unlike any other. In a neighborhood where maid cafés are nearly everywhere you look, pop-up maid cafes are nothing unusual.
However, this one was different in one important way: The maids were robots.
This wasn't just a gimmick. Visitors were greeted, guided to their seats, attended to, and served by a maid robot named MaSiRo, operating independently and with no human remotely controlling her movements.
As some of our readers may recall, in 2019, we first introduced the MaSiRo Project, which stands for: "Maid Apprentice Substantializing Ideal Robot." MaSiRo (pronounced "mashiro") is also the name of the project's first maid robot.
Originally introduced at events as "a beautiful robot girl who you can hold hands with," MaSiRo has since evolved as part of the master plan conceived by her creator, A_say (@Asays). Ultimately, as he explained in our interview in April 2022, A_say dreams of "(making) anime-like beings manifest in reality as if they were alive." With his expertise in robotics, he's on his way to making his dream come true.
The first step towards achieving that goal is a cafe entirely staffed by maid robots who have unique and individual personalities. Through the support of the INNO-vation Program sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, A_say was able to conduct a proof-of-concept of such a café using MaSiRo. Her twin sisters, CiRo (pronounced "chiro") and CiYa (pronounced "chiya"), whom A_say created thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that achieved over 300% of its target, were also present and reacted to customers, but they left serving duties to their older sister.
After filling out a card indicating their order, the customer rang a bell that transmitted a signal. MaSiRo, who had meticulously learned the layout of the cafe, approached the customer, who then placed the card on her hand for her to take to the kitchen staff. When the order was ready, the kitchen staff placed the tray on her arms and MaSiRo served it.
Here is MaSiRo serving coffee:
You can see what actually happened in this video:
You can also get a good idea from this promotional video showing a customer's visit to the MaSiRo Cafe.
In reaction to the first video, which has over 100,000 views, fans of the MaSiRo Project from around the world left numerous comments praising the project and supporting A_say's efforts, such as:
"It's amazing. I'm impressed by the skill it took to get the project this far and complete it to the point where it can be shown to the public." [Japanese]
"Wow, we're just a step away from making an anime world with (robot girls like) Chi or Multi come to life!" [Japanese]
"How lovely! (multiple heart emojis) I need one of those lol" [Spanish]
"They're absolutely adorable and must be protected at all times!!
"The fact that MaSiRo keeps looking away from you and glancing off to the side is adorable, it's like she's too embarrassed to keep eye contact."
"The future for the MaSiRo Project looks promising!"
Statement from MaSiRo Project creator A_say
"We caught up with A_say recently and asked him how he felt about the trial run at Cafe Triomphe.
The robot maid creator expressed his gratitude and thoughts about the trial run, as well as his hopes for the future of the MaSiRo Project:
I am grateful that someone recommended me for the INNO-vation Program sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and that I was fortunate enough to have been selected. As a result, I was able to devote myself for an entire year to the maid robot café prototype.
Although we had many difficulties along the way, MaSiRo, who was merely a "hand-holding robot," was able to carry out duties as a maid robot, representing a big leap forward.
Therefore, I'm proud to say that the result of our one-year challenge was a great success!
However, this isn't my final goal.
Four years have passed since the project was launched. MaSiRo has finally made it to the starting line as a maid robot. Going forward, she will continue to develop, becoming smarter and cuter along the way as I strive to realize the maid robot café of my dreams.
More than 100 people came to see MaSiRo this time, so it really sunk in that many people really love her.
This is only the first step towards achieving my dreams. My ultimate goal is to ensure that MaSiRo and her friends will continue to be loved and needed in the future.
Hopefully, when I am gone, MaSiRo and her friends will not be just robots or just equipment in a café. They will be recognized as characters who actually live there. I will continue development in the MaSiRo project to realize such a world."
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