Japan's social distance robots: Changing the game for businesses during covid!

newsonjapan.com -- Sep 30
The term 'Robot' was invented exactly one hundred years ago, in the year 1920, to describe a fictional humanoid in the Czech play R.U.R. Heck, it's even older than that- there are myths dating back to ancient Greece about Hephaestus creating automatons and such.

Since then, Robots have become a mainstay of science fiction stories, from the works of Issac Asimov to George Lucas' 'Star Wars'.

The idea of an artificial human has fascinated writers since it's inception. After all, if we can make a metal man, what then is a man? What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be human? Is a robot a machine that pretends to be human, or is it a new life-form altogether?

Well, I don't have any of the answers to that, but I do know that people have been trying to make robots a reality for decades. We've made progress too. Factories use robotic appendages to create products and devices. Amazon uses robot drones to deliver packages to your doorstep. You can buy a Roomba right now to vacuum your floor for you. Bots can be made to wing games at FairGo casino logins. Still, we're a long way off from C-3PO.

Or are we?

Artificial Intelligence

It's important to delineate between Robots and AI. While they are certainly related, they're not the same thing. Robots are a combination of coded rules and machinery created to give the robot a physical function out here in the real world. AI, as it's commonly used in computer science, is better defined as a Neural Network.

Neural Networks are advanced algorithms that can basically learn from its mistakes to accomplish difficult tasks. These algorithms run off the same principle as the infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters approach.

If the algorithm tries to do the same thing over and over again, eventually it'll write Shakespeare. However, that only makes that specific neural network good at doing that specific task. Google's DeepMind is pretty extraordinary by being capable of playing Chess, but Go, Dota, and even StarCraft at grandmaster levels. Could you take DeepMind and shove it inside a robot body?

No, because it's not designed to.

Social Distance Robots

Developing robot bodies is a monumental task, requiring electricians, mechanical engineers, programmers, and so on and so forth. Boston Dynamics have been working on their designs for years, and you can find videos about it on YouTube.

However, it's important to remember that the west isn't the only place developing advanced robots. Japan has been at the forefront of such technology for ages, from robotic pets, hotels, sex-dolls, and even a giant, working Gundam that is supposed to start walking around in October.

More relevantly, a Japanese Company called Seikatsu Kakumei Inc began selling robot servers for businesses, to help businesses stay open while reducing the risk of spreading the pandemic. The "digital teleportation robot", which sounds way cooler than it is, allows operators to control robots to interact with customers from a socially safe distance. The operators face is displayed in real-time, shops, showrooms, conventions, and the like are safer while still allowing customers to go out and interact with other people.

Company CEO Yuko Miyazawa said, “[robots] can bring people closer to a normal state of communication. Being holed up in a room is unnatural for human beings.”

This isn't science fiction. These robots are currently in use in businesses across Japan. AquaraHome Co. is using these robots to tour potential buyers and clients around houses. The Galley Seafood & Grill restaurant uses two robot waiters to serve food.

Obviously, they aren't the only robotics company looking to get into this market. Telexistance, another robotics company, is using its own robot to stock shelves in a FamilyMart store. Their robot is operated by a pilot using Virtual Reality to control the robot.

Robots aren't just for businesses either. Romotta specializes in rentable robots, for both people and businesses. According to Romotto CEO Yukinori Izumi, ninety percent of the company's individual customers are women in their 20s to 60s, and they love Aibo the playful robot dog, and RoBoHon, an adorable little humanoid. Izumi attributes this to the difference in how men and women perceive robots.

“Men tend to look at robots as hardware, so they are only concerned with their specifications. But women see them as like a pet, or as a companion when they're lonely at home.” Izumi said.

While we're still a while off from personal C-3POs and Commander Data, robots are rapidly advancing and are being incorporated into everyday life. More and more companies are looking at robots like these and realizing that they're safer, cheaper, and just as efficient as traditional staff. The world of tomorrow is coming ever closer, and it's super exciting.