Japanese Store Deploys Robot to Ensure Shoppers Wear Masks and Maintain Social Distancing

The clerk robot is equipped with cameras and LiDAR sensors to measure the distance between two people and asks shoppers politely to wear a mask

Japan is a world leader when it comes to robotics. The country deploys a robot in almost every aspect of life. Now that the country is facing a third wave of the novel Coronavirus, Japan has started trials for a robot that will remind you to wear a mask and maintain social distancing, politely.

Named Robovie, it has been developed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) with an aim to enforce strict guidelines. In the initial phase, the trial for Robovie began in the soccer club Cerezo Osaka's merchandise shop last week and will continue until the end of the month. The aim is to reduce contact between shoppers and staff. That way, the developers believe, customers would not be embarrassed if they are asked to cover their faces by a robot.

Robovie asks customers to maintain social distancing and wear a mask ATR

Helping Hand

Robovie comes with cameras and sensors to watch shoppers and staff's movements around the shop and uses lasers to check the gap between two people. If it finds the gap shorter than six feet, it goes to the customer and asks to maintain social distance. Preloaded with the shop's layout and LiDAR sensors, Robovie doesn't need guidance. It can freely move around the shop.

When it is not making sure people wear masks and maintain social distancing, Robovie helps shoppers find a product location. The developers said that the robot was designed to work as a clerk whose job will be to provide customer service and warning-type service.

Since the beginning of November, Japan has seen an increase in the number of daily Coronavirus infections. On November 15, it reported 1,694 new positive cases, taking the total tally to over 119,000 with more than 1,800 dead.

Robot Wolf

Clerk robots aside, Japan is also testing robots that could drive away bears. In the Japanese town of Takikawa on the Hokkaido island, there has been a sharp increase in bear sightings and attacks. While in other countries, authorities may have deployed patrols equipped with guns, in Japan, a robot can do a better job. Named Monster Wolf, the robot can detect bear and vermin. Equipped with motion sensors, if it detects a bear, it would move its head, flash lights and make howling noise.

Developed by Ohta Seiki, the robot looks like a wolf on a stick with glowing red eyes. To scare the bears away, it can make up to 60 different sounds. Takikawa town council has deployed two such robots in the neighborhood. Since deploying the robots, there have been no reports of bear sightings.

Robots in Tokyo Olympics

With Tokyo Olympics slated for 2021, Japan has also been trialing field support robots. During the Olympics, such robots will retrieve javelins and shot puts besides providing drinks to spectators. It will also help spectators with disabilities get to designated seats. Apart from that, the organizing committee will also deploy mascot robots, designed by Toyota. That's not it though. Besides the two initiatives, Japan also tested a delivery robot that could self-drive and deliver packages in small distances during the COVID-19 crisis.