Japan is well known for its super robots, even fictional, including Gundams and Code Geass' robots. And right now, another cool machine that looks like a slender man with ears went viral online in a Japanese convenience store.
Robots in Japan are stocking shelves in convenience stores. The singularity is here! Everybody panic!
So far, no robots have gone rogue in the FamilyMart, where a company called Lawson has deployed 7-foot robots to restock shelves in Tokyo. pic.twitter.com/UJJ9rKZ4LF — Ron Luikaart (@RonLuikaart) September 15, 2020
The robots are currently being tested, which are designed explicitly to stock store shelves to fight the country's labor shortage to allow workers to conduct social distancing during the ongoing pandemic properly.
FamilyMart, Japan's second-biggest convenience store chain, has collaborated with Telexistence, a robot manufacturer, to create an android stock bot called Model-T. The name was based on Henry Ford's famous car.
However, this one is different from other machines since, instead of using AI, the 7-foot-tall robot is connected to a human operator who controls its movements remotely using virtual reality (VR). Model-T has a wide range of motion that allows it to easily move and lift objects, with a lag time of only 50 milliseconds between the automation and human controller.
One operator could control multiple Model-Ts
According to FamilyMart's pilot program, an operator must log in to a VR terminal from Telexistence's office located in Toranomon, Tokyo, to remotely control a Model-T installed at a store five miles away, in the Toshima Ecomusee Town building.
The convenience store explained that it wants to save many labor-hours by making a new store operation that allows restocking to work remote and automated. Although Model-T doesn't move very fast or replace human employees, it has a feature that enables one operator to control multiple robots' movements in several stores, using the same inventory and layout. Right now, the machine is tasked to restock plastic beverage from the back of the store to make up for the large portion of the workload. Once Model-T's accuracy and speed are verified, it can begin working on other essential products, such as bento boxes, sandwiches, and rice balls.
FamilyMart said it plans to send the machine in up to 20 stores by 2022 to be in every location eventually.
"By introducing Model-T into stores, FamilyMart store staff will be able to work in multiple stores from a remote location, which will help solve challenges around labor shortage and help create new job opportunities," said the company.
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Written by Jamie Pancho