Adorable Kangaroo-Resembling Robots May Soon Be Restocking Shelves In Japanese Retail Stores

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The VR-controlled Model-T robot is built to help retailers stock shelves (Credit: Telexistence Inc.)

Faced with a declining population and shrinking workforce, Japan has been increasingly turning to robots for help. Over the years, the androids have been deployed to perform a large number of human tasks, including building products and providing care and companionship for the elderly. The latest addition to the Japanese "workforce" may be Model-T. This seven-foot-tall robot is currently undergoing trials restocking sandwiches, drinks, and ready meals on shelves at select locations of local convenience store chains Lawson and FamilyMart.

Model-T, whose face vaguely resembles that of a kangaroo, is certainly not the first restocking robot. However, the warehouse robots currently being used by companies, like Walmart and Amazon, are only able to accomplish single, repetitive tasks, such as stacking boxes. Model-T, on the other hand, has a wide range of movement and can be used to restock objects of various sizes, making it ideal for convenience and grocery stores, which sell a large variety of items.

"It is able to grasp, or pick and place, objects of several different shapes and sizes into different locations," Matt Komatsu, head of business development and operations at Telexistence Inc., the company behind Model-T, told CNN Business.

Named after the classic Ford Motor car that began the era of mass motoring a century ago, Model-T is not autonomous. Instead, it is operated by human "pilots" wearing a virtual reality (VR) headset and special gloves, which allow them to feel the product the robot is holding in their hands and guide it to the right shelf. Since the video connection between the robot and the human operator has a mere 50 milliseconds latency, the navigation process is seamless. Telexistence says the VR-controlled androids are easier to develop and maintain. They are also ten times cheaper than autonomous robots, which require complex programming.

Model-T's easy-to-use controls require little training and can be operated from a remote location. During the August 2020 trial at a Tokyo FamilyMart store, the robot was directed from a VR terminal located at the Telexistence office about five miles away. Tomohiro Kano, a general manager in charge of franchise development at FamilyMart, believes this capability will enable the chain to recruit employees who would typically not work in stores. "There are about 1.6 million people in Japan who, for various reasons, are not active in the workforce," Kano told Japan Times.

Model-T can be controlled by a human operator from a remote location (Credit: Telexistence Inc.)

Though Model-T appears to be breezing through the trials, it is not quite ready to enter the labor force. Besides being a lot slower than human stockers, it is also only capable of lifting packaged items, and cannot grasp loose items such as fruits and vegetables. Telexistence is working to improve the limitations and hopes to introduce a faster, more agile Model-T within the next two years. The company believes that in addition to retail, the robots could also be useful in hospitals, allowing doctors to perform surgeries from remote locations.

Resources: newatlas.con, cnn.com

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290 Comments
  • m0noki
    m0nokiTuesday, November 3, 2020 at 2:31 pm
    Cute! <3
    • phantomsolution
      phantomsolutionTuesday, November 3, 2020 at 8:41 am
      I did not see any problems so its really cool actually.
      • johnnyk705
        johnnyk705Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 11:09 am
        Those eyes have seen some things, very scary things.
        • jgdjjesse
          jgdjjesseWednesday, October 28, 2020 at 5:48 am
          I'm am doing a porjack and I want to laraen more.
          • weez
            weezTuesday, October 27, 2020 at 3:27 pm
            Cool!!!!!😍🤔💞😻
            • beefymarshmalow
              beefymarshmalowTuesday, October 27, 2020 at 6:01 am
              i love kangaroos and robots! do you
              • johnnyk705
                johnnyk705Thursday, October 29, 2020 at 11:00 am
                Yeah I do a lot and seeing them combined makes it so much better.
              • 2902696
                2902696Monday, October 26, 2020 at 6:18 pm
                How would little kids react to this and the remote surgery might not be a goog idea but other wise it is creepy cool!💀♨
                • lenikhvadagiani
                  lenikhvadagianiMonday, October 26, 2020 at 1:34 pm
                  OMG!!!! Love this. AWWW if this robot where in my house.... I WOULD LOVE IT!!! I would adopt it. Not creepy for me
                  • deppressedfox20
                    deppressedfox20Thursday, November 5, 2020 at 1:15 pm
                    *you got a friend in me for toy story plays in my head*
                  • legopro12
                    legopro12Monday, October 26, 2020 at 6:54 am
                    When it looks around it head is so creepy.
                    • legopro12
                      legopro12Monday, October 26, 2020 at 6:12 am
                      The head is so creepy
                      • weez
                        weezTuesday, October 27, 2020 at 3:22 pm
                        Not really.😁