Photo: Telexistence
tech

Remote-control VR robots to start working in Japanese convenience stores this summer

11 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Hardly a day goes by that we don’t find ourselves stopping into one of Japan’s many convenience stores to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. But while we’ve come to expect tasty onigiri rice balls and tempting dessert beverages when we walk through the door, soon we might be seeing robots.

Convenience store chain FamilyMart has announced a partnership with Tokyo-based robotics firm Telexistence. Together, the companies plan to study ways to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs by using Telexistence’s technology to stock FamilyMart store shelve with products.

What’s especially interesting about the project, though, is that full automation isn’t necessarily the goal. Rather than turn FamilyMart branches into essentially giant vending machines, where products are automatically replaced after a customer selects one for purchase, the plan is to use remote-control robots, operated by human beings using VR terminals at a separate location.

FamilyMart’s hope is that successful implementation of the system would increase the work flexibility of employees, since they wouldn’t have to be on-site to do their jobs, and also allow for stores unable to find local workers to still operate with a small number of employees.

Test installations are scheduled to start this summer at select FamilyMart locations in Tokyo, with the goal of having robots stocking shelves in 20 branches by 2022 and further expansion after that, if the trials yield positive results. Even then, though, the plan isn’t to make FamilyMart locations all-robot, so don’t forget the proper manners for shopping at convenience stores in Japan.

Sources: Press release, Asahi Shimbun Digital

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

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© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

11 Comments
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And life becomes another step more lonely and sterile in Japan. Soon people will have pretty much no human to human interaction at all in their lives.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As foreigner from N. America, I find most store clerks in convenience stores in Japan to be cold and impersonal. Clerks seem to be reading off a script for the most part and have no concept of rapport or repeat business. You may go to the same store for years and be served by the same clerks, but they behave as if they don’t even recognize you. Being treated by another human being in such a callous manner is incredibly off putting. At least with robots the customer will be spared that.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

As an ex-pat, who does not speak Japanese, will these robots be programmed to understand English and/or other languages?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wonder what languages they will speak? Japanese? English? Chinese? Tagalog? Klingon? Local dialects?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@ Richard Burgan

Klingon...YES!

I just wonder how ‘*Welcome*!’ and ‘*Thank you for waiting!*’ would sound spoken by Strategic Operations Officer Worf!

I don’t think it would be anything at all close to the tone of a typical Japanese convenience store employee... ;)

3 ( +3 / -0 )

From a capitalist standpoint, why don’t automate the whole store?

There are few places in America doing so. The results aren’t concrete yet.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hope they all bow. At the appropriate angle.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

proteus7Today  04:49 pm JST

As foreigner from N. America, I find most store clerks in convenience stores in Japan to be cold and impersonal. Clerks seem to be reading off a script for the most part and have no concept of rapport or repeat business. You may go to the same store for years and be served by the same clerks, but they behave as if they don’t even recognize you. 

In most of these type of jobs the clerks gewt badmouthed by irate rude customers and their bosses. They often have no hope for better things in life, and their pay sucks. As for benefits, they're next to none. That's why they act like they do, it's a feeling of having to smile but getting kicked in the face anyway.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@proteus7,

What you say is not necessarily true. Are you trying to engage them, or do you just plop your goods on the counter and check out? If you engage them, they will engage you u

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The era of robotic helpers in business centers has dawned in Japan where laborers remain a shortage. It ushers in a scenario when human interaction and rapport will soon be things of the past.

Good, bad, insipid or dull?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As an ex-pat, who does not speak Japanese, will these robots be programmed to understand English and/or other languages?

Maybe when you are in another person's country, YOU could make the effort to learn their language instead of expected THEM to do things to suit you?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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