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International - September 20, 2020

Seven-foot robots are stacking shelves in Tokyo convenience stores

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Japan has the oldest population in the world, which has caused a severe labor shortage. With nearly one-third of the population over 65, finding workers can be a challenge.

More and more companies are starting to use technology as a solution, including FamilyMart and Lawson, the two largest convenience store franchisees in Japan.

This week, Lawson deployed its first robot in a convenience store in Tokyo. FamilyMart tried out the same robots last month and said it plans to make them work in its 20 stores by 2022.

Both companies are deploying a robot called Model-T developed by Japanese startup Telexistence. When extended to its highest height, it is 7 feet tall. The robot moves around on a wheeled platform and is equipped with a camera, microphone and sensor. It can store bottled beverages, cans, rice bowls and other products on the shelf with three “fingers” of two hands.

Matt Komatsu, head of business development and operations at Telexistence, narrated “It can hold or place objects of different shapes and sizes in different locations.”

This makes it different from other robots used in stores, such as the one used by Wal-Mart to scan inventory on shelves, or the one used to stack boxes in warehouses. Komatsu said that warehouse robots “pick up the same things from the same place and place them on the same platform, and their movement is very limited compared to our robots.


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