Shop workers connect themselves to robots to stock shelves from home

A convenience store chain has deployed robots in their shops to allow staff to work remotely and avoid unnecessary contact during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Japanese grocery store franchise, FamilyMart, launched the trial to allow workers to operate the robots to stock shelves in the store without the risk of catching coronavirus.

Footage shows a member of staff wearing a Virtual Reality headset that is connected to the black Model-T robot behind the drinks aisle at the shop.

Using the programmed Augmented Workforce platform, the man can operate from the robotics firm Telexistence’s special ward five miles away from the store in Tokyo’s Toshima-ku.



He controls the robot using the special handset and can grab, lift and put the drinks onto the shelves.

A real-time security camera shows the robot moving in sync with the worker’s gestures while stocking up the drinks.

FamilyMart claims the idea is to keep a single robot operator to work on stocking up the shelves while an in-house worker solely focuses on serving the customers.

They are using the trial in 20 stores across within the next two years, giving them time to improve the robot design and see if there is an actual need to replace the human workforce in the stock rooms.



The workers can operate the robots at home using a VR headset and a motion control

FamilyMart said in a statement that they are looking to expand the products that the robots could work on, such as stocking sandwiches, lunch boxes and sushi.

In the meantime, designers are continuing to improve the robot’s handling speed and accuracy before rolling them out across the country.

The innovative idea was likened to the plot in Bruce Willis’ futuristic film Surrogates, where people no longer venture out of their homes and instead link themselves up with robotic surrogates that operate in the real world.

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