Model T, a robot designed to stock shelves, is being tested out at FamilyMart and Lawson convenience stores in Tokyo. It’s operated remotely by a human using a virtual reality console
Both FamilyMart and Lawson are testing out a robot stock boy named Model-T
It’s operated remotely by a human using a virtual-reality console
FamilyMart wants to deploy the Model-T in up to 20 stores by 2022
In addition to letting staff work remotely, the robot could address Japan’s critical labor shortage
By DAN AVERY FOR DAILYMAIL.COM
PUBLISHED: 21:01 BST, 18 September 2020 | UPDATED: 21:49 BST, 18 September 2020
Japanese convenience stores are testing out robots to stock store shelves in hopes of combating the country’s labor shortage and allowing human workers to socially distance during a pandemic.
FamilyMart, Japan’s second largest convenience store chain, has partnered with robotics company Telexistence on an android stock boy named Model-T, after Henry Ford’s famous car.
Rather than use AI, Model-T is connected to a human operator who manipulates the robot’s movements remotely using virtual reality (VR).
The seven-foot tall robot has a wide range of motion, necessary for lifting and moving products, with a lag time of only 50 milliseconds between operator and automaton.
This week Model-T was rolled out at Lawson, another convenience store that is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi.
In FamilyMart’s pilot program, an operator logs into a VR terminal from Telexistence’s office in Toranomon, Tokyo, and remotely operates a Model-T installed at a store five miles away in the Toshima Ecomusee Town building.
FamilyMart says it wants to create ‘a completely new store operation’ by making restocking work automated and remote, saving a large amount of labor-hours.
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While Model-T doesn’t move very fast, or remove the need for human employees altogether, one operator could theoretically govern the movements of multiple robots in a number stores with the same layout and inventory.
For now, Model-T will restock plastic beverage bottles from the back of the store, which makes up a relatively large portion of the workload.
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Like the Model T Ford, it was followed by the Model A. In this case AI.