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Lawson opens 1st avatar-staffed convenience store in Tokyo

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Lawson Inc opened Monday its first futuristic convenience store in Tokyo staffed by "avatars" remotely controlled by employees, making it possible for even those with mobility issues to enter the workforce.

A "bridge" technology for the coming wave of automation and replacement of workers.

"Living wages" for most jobs are a thing of the past, except for narrower and narrower fields of specialized skills.

How difficult is it to write a script to imitate the rote nature of Japanese customer service interaction?

-7 ( +16 / -23 )

so, the customer scans the product, pays and then bags the product?

Staff not needed then?

-2 ( +9 / -11 )

They will literally do anything to avoid paying human staff a living wage.

-6 ( +29 / -35 )

Excellent, a possible solution for combinis open 24 hours..

I love you Tokyo, the most geeky, cool and futuristic city in the world!!..

-20 ( +9 / -29 )

Change is coming and it will.

People can't live without a mobile phone now because you need it to live in society. need not want.

People will become to need robotic systems and automation and in this case Tele-work.

More jobs will be created not lost.

Change isn't always a bad thing.

3 ( +18 / -15 )

Let’s hope this absurd techno doesn’t go too far. Cause, ya know people need jobs.

Hopefully it’s too “mendo” for most conbini franchise holders.

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

Good news. A shortage of workers due to falling birth rates will soon be a thing of the past. With more avatars and robots replacing humans at workplace, Japan will be able to abolish the modern-day slavery of technical trainees and depend less on foreign workers.

-16 ( +3 / -19 )

Especially the grocery industry. There would be soooo many people with no job.

-9 ( +6 / -15 )

They just want your money without having to offer real customer service that you need to pay for. At least they are not asking for tips like they do in America now. So strange.

-12 ( +1 / -13 )

The problem is our Governments haven't removed the illusion of money as a means for living.

The Utopia envisioned by the Dadaists was partly based on a state where people are freed from work via automation to pursue purely artistic goals, supported fully by the state.

Removing jobs and a means to make money before replacing/abandoning the economic system, jut means increased desperation for those at the lowest rungs whose potential to make a little money is removed.

2 ( +11 / -9 )

Do I get a wage for doing their job?

-3 ( +16 / -19 )

They will spend millions on technology but hundreds on staff. This story makes me vomit.

-8 ( +20 / -28 )

@Gorramcowboy

You are right. So, if you go to one of these convenience stores, you have to do the job of the cashier and/or the staff. And we do not get paid but in actuality, are working at the convenience store. ;-((

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

They way it is explained is all sweetness and light. Is it gaslight, I wonder?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I bet this is really slow, with redundant confirmation steps.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Will the prices get cheaper with the customer doing all the work?

And thinking that automation makes consumerism better or easier should try paying 100,000円 using a convenience store machine-you’ll be there 5 minutes!

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

They really want to turn the people of Japan into podpeople. After all the useless people have died off, the ones left over will be those that can program and maintain the machines. Your children and your childrens children will live to maintain these machines and subsidize the lives of the elite via taxes and spending whatever little money is leftover on bare essentials. Anything that isn't simply existing and maintaining the machines will only be for the elite. There'll be no vacations, trips, relaxation for the plebs, no art, science or recreation for anyone that isn't part of the group that owns the machines. Just working at a computer, maintaining the machines when they break down, streaming netflix and eating processed garbage and bugs in your 6 tatami student dorm of an apartment. If they can get you addicted to a mobile game, alcohol or some other drugs, or 'legal' gambling then even better. Even if you manage to leave your skybox apartment every single interaction will be automated and sterile. They'll pay the programmers and maintainers just enough to survive and trick them into looking down at those that refuse to work in their satanic mills producing wealth for the elite.

-1 ( +12 / -13 )

No human employee presence in a store is something possible only in Japan, may be Switzerland and some Nordic countries due to the culture and income level. I like self-service but voluntarily opt for human attendance in supermarkets and shops to value human beings over machines, I would not like to be replaced by a robot, so, my option is for true present living beings!

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Avatars - especially multilingual ones - would be a useful addition, not a replacement for staff. Use cash. Fill out forms. Send cards and postcards by mail to cheer people up. Write cheques. Plug the Fax back in. Shop in places with real staff. Embrace what is real and tangible, and refuse to transition to digital.

'Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it.' [Philip K. Dick, 'The Transmigration of Timothy Archer'.]

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Don't be fooled. The article gave if away in the first line. That ain't no avator, it's just a person teleworking in. Only promotes more loneliness and dispair in society.

-5 ( +8 / -13 )

Is freezing greener than refrigerating?

This is supposed to increase profits by reducing payroll costs, but what will this lead to? Will it lead to the end of capitalism? Will it lead to revolution? Will it end in socialism?

Japan seems to be and exception, but this could just be because Japan can be so slow to change. All over the world there are people suffering from rising costs not be matched by rising paycheques. All over the world the working classes are suffering. This is leading to strikes, rebellion, demands. Just next door in South Korea and China there is violent protest.

What will happen if man is replaced by machine and robots has always been a big question in science fiction. When will we get find the answer to this question?

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

A human being wears a flesh-colored mask, to do business with a mask-less cartoon on a screen...

Dystopia has arrived.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

So what?

Not a bad thing at all.

We are not working robots or matrix slaves.

It's infrastructure and tech that needs to develop and adjust to serve human beings, not the other way around.

Imagine if we all stagnate for the sake of human labor.

Fancy an elevator attendant job anyone?

2 ( +5 / -3 )

China and Singapore had them too, very helpful.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

There aren't enough workers for the menial jobs & Japan doesn't want to open its borders to let workers in besides in dribs & drabs. So, going to be the way going forward unless there is some drastic change in the Jgov & don't see that happening any time soon.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

How will an Avatar deal with a shoplifter? Call the police? Or just photograph the shoplifter? Or just keep the stolen article or articles and say

nothing so as not to embarass the shoplifter?

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Just a high tech vending machine

0 ( +4 / -4 )

The chain's first "Green Lawson,"

So are they attempting to deceive us by pretending to be a green environmentally conscious franchise.

Exactly how much of their plastic waste is being burned in incinerator towers located in residential areas ?

Isn't almost everything packaged in plastic ?

And then you have to wonder where did the petroleum to make the plastic come from

1 ( +6 / -5 )

due to the culture and income level

Ah, yes! It is well known how wages in Switzerland, Norway and Japan are on par!

-1 ( +10 / -11 )

Nope.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

i saw article abt robots in restaurants today abt this...well...what to say...human part or say social contacts are very important but both retsurant chain owner and kombini franchise owners are all abt profit and endless greed so here we are...

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Can avatar put it plastic bag? Get cigarette? Send post? Get famichiki??

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Ugly, so they can hire cheap non Japanese speakers to stock the shelves and not have to pay them to learn Japanese.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Japanese people/companies have tried this with those unmanned food stations and yet so many people steal food from them. I fear this could be the same possibility with this new technology. What will they do about loss prevention?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

remotely controlled by employees, making it possible for even those with mobility issues to enter the workforce.

While I like the idea of increasing jobs for those with mobility issues, this just seems like a PR stunt to me. Let's be honest, these machines can likely be automated just like an ATM machine where the user will be the one to interact mainly. I don't understand why a person needs to be controlling this from somewhere else? If Lawson comes out and says they created this platform so they can not only create remote work for those with mobility issues but also provide for them a living wage with company benefits to eliminate unethical labor, then I would be amused and would likely use Lawson solely to help root for them. It would be a step up from their current "trainee" program abusing the workers to pay for leftover Christmas cakes.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

due to the culture and income level

Ah, yes! It is well known how wages in Switzerland, Norway and Japan are on par!

Those Nordic countries get taxes like crazy, but at least a good portion is for the average person's benefit. Meanwhile where is our taxed income going?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

taxed

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It will be a litmus test on how many people are truly struggling in Japan.

Will we see an increase in grab and dash crimes!

Will there be protests?

Will there be a rise in union membership?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Good news. A shortage of workers due to falling birth rates will soon be a thing of the past. With more avatars and robots replacing humans at workplace, Japan will be able to abolish the modern-day slavery of technical trainees and depend less on foreign workers.

That’s such a fallacy that Japan thinks it can automate its way out of falling birth rates. Machines and robots don’t pay taxes, yet the infrastructure that was built for a once booming population still needs to be supported and maintained. The only solution to the problem is immigration. Japan better starts ramping this up if they don’t want to experience culture shock, like many European countries did due mass migrations of wars.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

This will prove mega popular with foreign tourists as they flock back to Japan in their millions. Getting served by robots in restaurants, Avatars in the conveni...it will blow their minds! Also several hotels now employ only robot receptionists and cleaning staff, so the level of tech foreigners encounter on tour will be wonderful.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

I bet this is really slow, with redundant confirmation steps.

I use the self-checkout at my local Family Mart all the time. It takes two taps of the touch screen. It's very convenient at lunch time, when there are lines of people.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why not do what most countries do and increase immigration ...otherwise only robots will be left

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

How will the avatar hand me a cup for the coffee machine?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

So are they attempting to deceive us by pretending to be a green environmentally conscious franchise.

There is literally nothing "green, kind, socially-responsible" about this.

These people with mobility-issues already receive government support and support through their community.

Not like other staff in need of a living wage.

Avoiding that is of paramount importance to the corporate diktats,; sustainable development goals impose directives on consumers, boost the shareholder bottom line and move to cut out workers.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Robbie the robot ( ex employee of Honda ) who now works for Sushi Ro will not be happy to hear about the opposition cutting in on his turf.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What if someone barricades themselves in the store and takes the avatars hostage?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This only works in Japan because nobody steals. In the US, not so much.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

The matched the woman with the avatar. It is like an avatar mirror. Lol.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

every Japanese website I visit feels like it was designed twenty years ago).

Ha! So true!

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

No bullet-proof glass ? No steel barrier ?? No padlocked merchandise ???

This is dystopia. Dystopia I tells ya !!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

It seems to me our society in Japan (perhaps Tokyo more than anything?) truly does not want or appreciate human aspects like emotions and social interactions. The closer to being an anonymous noname character, the better. The less humane the better.

Somewhat true or am I exaggurating...?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

With the exception of paying bills

Guess they can't hanko the bill remotely.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"At least they are not asking for tips like they do in America now. So strange."

What convenience store in the US asks for tips in-store?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Will the avatar be able to communicate in English ?

Anime la la land.

Japanese like human service because i makes them feel important.

So i don't see this service as being popular.

Japan is in a big hurry to have supposedly automated AI systems for everything

And without the linear thoughts of proper safety and contingency planning.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Just a tiny problemette with the business model here. If too many jobs are automated and people can't work, how will enough people earn money to buy (overpriced) goods in convenience stores?

... And green my Aunt Sue.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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