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Osaka robot asks customers to wear masks and social distance

These robots can alert the hospitals' control centres if reinforcement is needed at certain sites with high human traffic. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

OSAKA, Nov 14, 2020, Kyodo. A robot capable of asking customers to wear masks and maintain social distancing to stem the spread of the coronavirus is being tested at an Osaka shop, The Japan Times reported.

The robot’s developer, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International out of Kyoto, envisions that it will be used to replace staff in stores and reduce contact between people amid the pandemic.

The trial, which began Wednesday at a merchandise store for J. League soccer club Cerezo Osaka in the city’s Suminoe Ward, is scheduled to run through Nov. 30 but may be extended.

With the layout of the store pre-loaded, the robot, equipped with a camera and sensors, is able to patrol around the store, observe customer movements and measure distance using lasers.

The robot identifies customers who are not wearing masks and calls on them to do so after a staff member from the institute confirms via a camera that it has not made an error.

The robot, which can also direct customers to products in the store, also reminds people who are too close together to maintain social distancing when lining up to pay.

The pilot test is currently being held between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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