As though 2020 couldn’t get any stranger, seven foot robots are now stacking shelves in popular convenience stores across Japan.
That’s right folks: we’ve already had the Pentagon officially releasing three UFO videos; we’ve had Kanye West announcing he was running for president; and, most recently, we’ve had signs of alien life being discovered on Venus.
It seems that isn’t enough though, with giant robots now joining the running for the most bizarre story to come out of 2020 after several Japanese stores decided to test them out as a way to combat the country’s labour shortage.
FamilyMart, Japan’s second largest convenience store chain, partnered with robotics company Telexistence to create the Model-T – an android ‘stock boy’ named after Henry Ford’s famous car.
The robot is actually connected to a human operator, who is able to manipulate the Model-T’s movements remotely using virtual reality. The seven-foot tall Model-T has a wide range of motion, necessary for lifting and moving products, with a lag time of only 50 milliseconds between operator and robot.
The Model-T will allow stores to ‘operate with less number of workers and enable them to recruit employees regardless of the store’s physical location,’ Telexistence said in a statement.
During FamilyMart’s pilot program, an operator logged into a virtual reality terminal from Telexistence’s headquarters, where they remotely operated the robot installed at a store five miles away.
The convenience store has said it wants to create ‘a completely new store operation’ by making restocking work automated and remote, as per the Daily Mail, saving a large amount of labour-hours.
And although the robot doesn’t remove the need for human employees altogether, one operator could theoretically be in charge of the movements of multiple robots in a number stores – as long as they had the same layout and inventory.
For the time being, the Model-T will restock plastic beverage bottles from the back of the store – which makes up a relatively large portion of the workload – before handling other items once its speed and accuracy are verified.
FamilyMart said it hopes to deploy the Model-T in up to 20 stores by 2022, with the goal eventually being for the robots to be in every location.
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).
Telexistence Begins the Trial Operation of its Remote Controlled Robot, Model-T, at a FamilyMart Store. Aims to Realize a New Labor-Saving Store Operation Platform
Terrifying seven-foot tall robots controlled by a human using a virtual reality system are stocking shelves in Japanese convenience stores to allow social distancing among workers
Robot, Japan, FamilyMart
World news – GB – Seven Foot Robots Stacking Shelves In Japanese Stores