Japanese Supermarket Introduces 7ft-Tall Robot Shelf Stackers
FamilyMart, which is the country's second largest convenience store chain, has partnered with robotics firm Telexistence to bring in the robots - named Model-T - to help out amid a labour shortage.
The robots are not powered by artificial intelligence and are, in fact,connected to a human operator who then controls the robots' movements remotely through a virtual reality system. It's weird living in 2020, isn't it?
The robots have a full range of motion to allow them to lift and move products as necessary and the lag time between the human operator and the Model-T is 50 milliseconds - so pretty bloody quick. It also has quite a cute little face, as you can see here.
To move the robot, an operator must log into a VR terminal from a Telexistence office in Tokyo and is then able to control the robot that is several miles - clever eh?
FamilyMart says it hopes to create a 'completely new store operation' by making restocking work automated and carried out remotely saving many hours of labour for human staff, the Daily Mail reports.
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Telexistence say the robots will mean stores can operate with fewer (human) workers and 'enable them to recruit employees regardless of the store's physical location'.
For now, the robots are just moving about plastic bottles, but once they've got down to a fine art, they'll be moved on to other popular items such as butties, bento boxes and rice balls.
FamilyMart says it hopes to have Model-T in to 20 stores by 2022, with an end goal of having one in every one of its stores.
In a statement Telexistence said: "By introducing Model-T into stores, FamilyMart store staff will be able to work in multiple stores from a remote location, which will help solve challenges around labour shortage and help create new job opportunities. It will also lead to the reduction of human-to-human contact to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
"Through this corporate alliance, FamilyMart will seek to further improve the convenience of its customers, reduce the operational burden on store employees and work towards realising an innovative store operation model for the new era."