KYODO – Japanese airline ANA Holdings Inc. opened Thursday what it says is the world’s first store where customers can shop remotely through an avatar.
The robots, standing 1.5 meters tall, will be employed at the avatar-in store through Dec. 24 in a shopping mall in Tokyo’s Nihombashi district, in collaboration with major department store operator Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd.
Customers using computers can control the robots called newme from anywhere in the country and shop for items in the gift store as if they were there. No actual customers will be allowed to physically enter the avatar-in store.
The robot, which moves around the store on wheels, includes a tablet-sized monitor that displays the customer’s facial expressions in real time.
Online registration is required to use the service, said ANA, which plans to introduce as many as 1,000 avatar robots in Japan, including 100 in the Nihombashi business and commercial district next year in time for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
ANA is hoping to develop avatar technologies, including for use in the nursing care industry, too boost future revenues.