• The Financial District


The coronavirus pandemic has forced society to reshape how people interact, and robots are fast filling the void, even to the point of helping alleviate feelings of loneliness in a world where social distancing has become the new norm, Donican Lam reported for Kyodo news service late on September 15, 2020.

While automatons were primarily utilized to perform menial tasks such as cleaning in the past, their ability to remove the need for close contact has now elevated their status and importance.

In February, robot and technology solutions company Seikatsu Kakumei Inc. began selling what it dubbed a "digital teleportation robot" package to help businesses carry out customer-facing activities during the pandemic.

By helping shops, showrooms, conventions and trade exhibitions handle visitors, robots "can bring people closer to the normal state of communication," said CEO Yuko Miyazawa. "Being holed up in a room is unnatural for human beings," he added. The service, which quickly became one of the Saitama-based company's most popular products, provides remote-controlled avatar robots to replace staff. The operator's face is shown in real-time on a tablet screen at the top of the robot, which can be navigated to lead customers to product displays. "People come because they want to see the actual product," Miyazawa said. "If that value is lost, then there's no difference to just shopping online."

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