From @home to at-home

If you've ever visited Akihabara, or if you've been following grape Japan for a while, then you've probably heard of "at-home cafe" (formerly written "@home cafe"). We've had a few opportunities to introduce the famous Akihabara establishment now operating for nearly 20 years and "gold standard" of maid cafe culture, including an extensive on-site report last year.

The maid cafe chain with two locations in Akihabara and (since 2019) one in Osaka's Nipponbashi district made two announcements today, one minor and one major. First, they updated their logo and changed their English spelling from "@home cafe" to "at-home cafe," to avoid confusion and simplify their image.

From physical home to virtual home

Second, and more importantly, they're opening a completely new originally branded service called "Virtual at-home cafe" which is accessible via PC or smartphone.

Instead of visiting the physical at-home cafe location, "masters" and "mistresses" can visit a "virtual" maid cafe environment taking on the form of avatars and interacting with maids rendered in 3D computer graphics. You'll be able to enjoy fun conversations, games and even taking photos together with the maids just like you can in the real cafe.

Virtual at-home cafe image characters Madoka Juri (L), Mahiru Kurusu (C), and Ichika Ichinose (R) | © PR Times, Inc.

This promotional video gives you an idea of what you can expect when service begins later this month:

"Virtual at-home cafe": Three updates

As you may have suspected, opening a "virtual" outpost at this particular moment in time is no mere coincidence for at-home cafe and its operating company Infinia Co., Ltd. It represents an update to the existing at-home cafe service in three important ways:

Updated communication style

With the novel coronavirus pandemic, online communication has become more prominent across many industries, including the entertainment industry. However, according to their press release, customers are sometimes embarrassed to reveal their faces or are concerned about their privacy, so online 1-on-1 services have not taken off. This is where a virtual environment has an advantage since both customers and cast members do not need to reveal their identities and can interact safely and privately. Moreover, by taking on an avatar, users can forget all the limitations of their real-world selves and become whoever they want to be, taking on a new name, new appearance, new birthday, hobbies, etc.

This is the first step. Eventually, they hope "Virtual at-home cafe" will become one of many virtually accessible worlds that users can visit with the avatar of their choosing.

Updated maid cafe

Through nearly 20 years of experience, at-home cafe has grown into an entertainment cafe where customers can enjoy singing and dancing performances, cute menu items, interactions with maid staff, and much more. Putting all that experience to good use, they're now ready to offer a full-fledged virtual equivalent where customers will be able to enjoy a recognizable "at-home cafe" experience without physical restrictions, from anywhere in the world.

Screen represents system currently in development | © PR Times, Inc.

Updated working style

Those who are interested in working as "virtual" cast members will appreciate the convenience of working a second job from home. As long as you live somewhere in Japan, you'll be provided with a tablet and headset from which you can operate the system and work without needing to change into a costume or even change out of your pajamas! Training and preparation are all conducted online, and the only criterion you'll be judged on is your voice. Of course, it goes without saying that working from home is also a safe option during the ongoing pandemic. So, if you enjoy the "moe" world of maids and want to work from home, this could be an opportunity to explore.

Screen represents system currently in development | © PR Times, Inc.


By - Ben K.