Robots let us peruse the aisles of clothing stores from anywhere in the world.

Only a few days ago, the Japan Cabinet Office announced a bold plan to virtually replace the labor force with an array of robot avatars that people of all abilities can operate remotely from anywhere in the world. It’s a system much like that critically acclaimed avatar-themed movie, Being John Malkovich.

Although the avatar initiative is slated for 2050, it appears the future is partially now. But instead of entering the body of a celebrated character actor, this project may soon allow us to inhabit the far more practical vessel of a clothes shopping robot.

Named “newme,” this simple robot allows anyone to commandeer it from their web browser and literally browse a store freely while also interacting with the staff. It’s a part of a larger line of avatar robots being developed by ANA Holdings for a variety of functions such as conducting tours or fishing.

But today our Japanese writer Kg was invited to see one in action at the “contessa ricca” boutique in Oita City’s Funai Gobangai Shopping District.

Normally, Kg feels uncomfortable going into women’s clothing stores alone, so he brought along his daughter to help him blend in. Kg wasn’t sure what to expect but was surprised to find a normal looking fashion retailer, and no lumbering mecha clanking around the floor…

Then, he spotted a peculiar looking blue rack with nothing hanging on it. While studying it curiously, the rack suddenly scooted across the floor.

That was it!

Kg’s daughter was also not sure what to expect. Her father had simply told her there would be robots. With all due respect to newme, it’s probably not a child’s first image when they hear the word “robot.”

However, it was love at first sight…

Okay, not very first sight, but it didn’t take long before she was comfortable enough to start chatting with the robot avatar.

On the other end is a person piloting from a mere laptop browser. Newme is simply controlled using the arrow keys and if a camera and mic are set up then the driver’s face will appear on newme’s monitor, through which they will be able to interact with people in the store.

Now that Kg’s daughter was familiar with newme, it was time for her to get behind the controls and take it for a spin.

Even through the narrow aisles of contessa ricca, she could quickly and easily maneuver the avatar. Newme was extremely easy to use overall, and during the demonstration, Kg also saw other people log onto it from other countries around the world and operate it just as smoothly.

There was one set back, however, in that the newme robot and store operated on completely different systems. This meant that if you wanted to buy something you would have to pay on a completely different website, or possibly using a QR code and participating cashless service.

It wasn’t a huge obstacle to overcome though, and could very well be addressed by the time this type of technology begins commercial use. With simple pleasures like browsing a store having vanished – for the most part at least – robots like this can’t come fast enough.

Source: ANA Avatar In
Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]