comscore Remote-controlled robots on the job at FamilyMart ‘kombini’ | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Remote-controlled robots on the job at FamilyMart ‘kombini’

TOKYO >> Japanese konbini (convenience stores): Source of wacky culinary delights. Eternal beacons of hope. And now, humanoid robot staff.

Last month, convenience store chain FamilyMart tested remote-control robots created by Tokyo-based Telexistence. The ‘bots were controlled by workers using virtual reality headsets and glove controllers to stock shelves with beverages and cup ramen.

With the new technology, the store hopes to improve employees’ work-life balance and address locations with limited staff. Its aim is to pivot to a new “augmented workforce platform” — in which workers are supported by artificial intelligence, robotics and other technology — for store operations.

The robots mean fewer staff will be needed in person in stores.

FamilyMart’s goal is to introduce robots into 20 of its 16,600 stores by 2022.

With the ongoing need for social distancing, the robots will contribute to keeping staff and customers safe, the company said.

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