It was way back in 2018 when one of our reporters bumped into a robot security guard patrolling the platform of Seibu Shinjuku Station. While it looked more like a big floor scrubber than Robocop and was simply undergoing a test run at the time, it still heralded the beginning of robotic security in Japan in some ways.
▼ It looked like it should be emitting a pleasant aroma too.
And now, a team of three autonomous patrol robots reported for permanent duty at the Tokyo metropolitan government building on Aug 11. These particular robots are SQ-2 models made by Seqsense in Tokyo. Their AI can detect people and obstacles to avoid collisions while going about their predetermined patrol routes, and they have several on-board cameras that broadcast video directly to human security personnel at a central location.
They also have a hand sensor that can put you in touch with guards of the flesh for help or general inquiries. Also, when their batteries run low, they’ll automatically seek out and link up with a charging port, during which time they will continue to monitor with their cameras, including that spinning one on their heads that not only makes 3-D maps of their surroundings, but makes them look like the robot from "Lost in Space."
Readers of the news were intrigued by the new security devices, but not entirely convinced they were the best option for the government building.
“They look kind of intimidating with those things spinning on their heads.”
“Isn’t the R2-D2 model available?”
“Is arming them for self-defense an option?”
“Why not just put up a bunch of 360-degree cameras.”
“There are a lot of robots like this in Otemachi, but they’re scarier than security guards if you see one at night.”
“Just having cameras moving about is enough of a deterrent. They should use these in schools too.”
“I’d just put some tape over their cameras.”
“Can’t you just kick it over?”
“I’m waiting for the first one to run away.”
“I wish they’d use one of those Boston Dynamics dogs.”
“Human security guards are still doing the important stuff, though.”
Indeed, creating a robot that could handle all the duties of a normal security guard, including the interpersonal ones, would drive up the price considerably. Besides, replacing all human jobs with robots brings a slew of other socioeconomic problems. These robots, instead, fill labor shortcomings at an affordable price where needed. In this case, a manager with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government confirmed, “We introduced this system as a measure to solve a shortage of security personnel.”
It’s a sign once again that in Japan robots in the workplace are increasingly taking the form of avatars from which a smaller number of humans can do labor remotely.
Top image: YouTube/SEQSENSE, Inc.
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