News // Gadgets

Robot checks you if you wear a mask in stores

A store in Japan has received the help of a robot to ensure that customers wear masks, as the country prepares for a possible third wave of coronavirus infections.

Robovie , developed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, is able to choose customers who do not wear masks and politely ask them to use the mask. It can also intervene when customers fail to keep their distance from the queues for payment.

Robovie developers, who are behind a series of robotic innovations , hope the experiment will reduce contact between buyers and staff, adding that they believe most people will feel less embarrassed to be asked to cover by a robot than by a bodyguard.

Robot specialized in masks and spacers

Equipped with preloaded information about the look of the store, Robovie uses a camera and sensors to observe people’s movements and laser technology to measure the distance between them.

When not applying social distance and wearing a mask – generally accepted preventive measures in Japan – Robovie also guides customers around the store.

While Japan has avoided the large number of cases and deaths observed in other countries, a recent increase in daily Covid-19 infections has led to the imposition of new measures to prevent hospitals from overtaking as winter approaches.

On Sunday, it reported 1,441 new cases, slightly lower than the 1,737 infections recorded the previous day, with Tokyo, Osaka and other cities and regions reporting record increases over the weekend.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said there are no plans to rethink a subsidized domestic tourism campaign or declare a second state of emergency.

The northernmost main island of Hokkaido, a popular tourist destination, has reported more than 200 cases for four days in a row, including a group of more than a dozen on nearby Rishiri Island, which the local population blames on visitors who use Go To travel scheme, which subsidizes holidays.

A Kyodo poll over the weekend found that 84% of respondents were concerned about the latest outbreak, with more than 68% saying the government should prioritize its public health response over the economy.

Half of those surveyed said they were opposed to rumored plans to expand the Go To scheme beyond the end of January.