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Robot built for Japan’s aging workforce finds coronavirus role

Mira Robotics CEO Ken Matsui operates an Ugo avatar robot during a demonstration at the company’s laboratory in An An employee of Mira Robotics adjusts a ugo robot. (Reuters)
Mira Robotics CEO Ken Matsui operates an Ugo avatar robot during a demonstration at the company’s laboratory in An An employee of Mira Robotics adjusts a ugo robot. (Reuters)
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10 Jun 2020 05:06:23 GMT9
10 Jun 2020 05:06:23 GMT9

TOKYO: Mira Robotics developed its “ugo” robot to reinforce greying Japan’s shrinking workforce, but the Japanese startup is offering its machine as a tool in the fight against the pandemic, the company’s CEO said.

“The coronavirus has created a need for robots because they can reduce direct contact between people,” Ken Matsui told Reuters. “We’ve had inquiries from overseas, including from Singapore and France.”

The latest feature of the remote-controlled robot is a hand attachment that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses on door handles.

A population decline that is shrinking Japan’s workforce by more than half a million people a year, as well as a reluctance to bring in foreign labor, has spurred robot development in Japan. The emergence of coronavirus-related demand could further that work.

Mira Robotics’ ugo is a pair of height-adjustable robotic arms mounted on wheels, operated remotely through a wireless connection with a laptop and game controller. It takes around 30 minutes to learn how to use the robot. Each operator can control up to four machines, said Matsui. Ugo, which costs around $1,000 a month to rent, can be deployed as a security guard, carry out equipment inspections and clean toilets and other areas, he added.

Matsui’s two-year old startup so far has only one ugo operating at an office building in Tokyo.

Reuters

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