A Japanese chain looks to VR-operated robots to restock store shelves.

Japan Passes Drudge Jobs to Robots with VR Training

Since robots have been around now for about 70 years, they have been slowly integrated into the job market. Unimate was the first industrial robot, which worked on a General Motors assembly line at the Inland Fisher Guide Plant in Ewing Township, New Jersey, in 1961. Invented by George Devol in 1954, it was the beginning of the industrial robot era.

In the latest evolution, convenience store chain Family Mart has partnered with Tokyo-based robotics firm Telexistence to study ways to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs by using Telexistence’s technology to stock the Family Mart store shelve with products.

A story on soranews24.com details how the companies are merging VR with robotics to take over repetitive tasks, while also keeping workers from being exposed to virus-infected customers during the pandemic.

Reporter Casey Baseel summed it up thusly:

“Hardly a day goes by that we don’t find ourselves stopping into one of Japan’s many convenience stores to grab a bite to eat or something to drink. But while we’ve come to expect tasty onigiri rice balls and tempting dessert beverages when we walk through the door, soon we might be seeing robots.”

The project is unusual because full automation isn’t the goal. Rather than turn Family Mart branches into essentially giant vending machines, where products are automatically replaced after a customer selects one for purchase, the plan is to use remote-control robots, operated by human beings using VR terminals at a separate location.

Test installations are scheduled to start this summer at select Family Mart locations in Tokyo, with the goal of having robots stocking shelves in 20 branches by 2022 and further expansion after that if the trials yield positive results.

An example of Telexistence’s VR robotics being manipulated by a human worker.

read more at soranews24.com