Japan has the oldest population in the world, and that's causing an acute labor shortage. With almost a third of the population aged 65 and above, finding workers can be a challenge.

Iran PressAsia: Increasingly, companies are turning to technology as a solution — including two of the biggest convenience store franchises in Japan, FamilyMart and Lawson.

This week, Lawson deployed its first robot in a convenience store, in Tokyo. FamilyMart trialed the same robots last month and says it plans to have them working in 20 of its stores by 2022.

Both chains are deploying a robot named Model-T, developed by Japanese startup Telexistence. Seven feet tall when extended to its full height, the robot moves around on a wheeled platform and is kitted out with cameras, microphones, and sensors. Using the three "fingers" on each of its two hands it can stock shelves with products such as bottled drinks, cans, and rice bowls.

Telexistence does not plan to sell the robots and VR systems directly to stores but will provide them for a fee. It would not disclose the price but said it would be cost-competitive with human labor.

In theory, the robot could be controlled from anywhere in the world, says Komatsu. During a trial in August at a FamilyMart store in Tokyo, the pilot-operated the robot from a VR terminal at the Telexistence office around five miles away.


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