Postman, shopper, builder: In Japan, there’s a robot for that

A man takes pictures of a CarriRo robot made by ZMP, which rolls along the pavements and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius, at the World Robot Summit in Tokyo on Oct. 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 October 2018
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Postman, shopper, builder: In Japan, there’s a robot for that

  • CarriRo “is designed to roll along the pavements and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius,” explained Chio Ishikawa, from Sumitomo Corp, which is promoting the robot
  • The lucky recipient of the package is sent a code to a smartphone allowing him or her to access CarriRo’s innards and retrieve whatever is inside — post, medicine or a take-away

TOKYO: Forget the flashy humanoids with their gymnastics skills: at the World Robot Summit in Tokyo, the focus was on down-to-earth robots that can deliver post, do the shopping and build a house.
Introducing CarriRo, a delivery robot shaped a bit like a toy London bus with bright, friendly “eyes” on its front that can zip around the streets delivering packages at 6km/h (4 miles per hour).
CarriRo “is designed to roll along the pavements and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius,” explained Chio Ishikawa, from Sumitomo Corp, which is promoting the robot.
The lucky recipient of the package is sent a code to a smartphone allowing him or her to access CarriRo’s innards and retrieve whatever is inside — post, medicine or a take-away.
Services like this are especially needed in aging Japan. With nearly 28 percent of the population over 65, mobility is increasingly limited and the country is struggling for working-age employees.
Toyota’s HSR (Human Support Robot) may not be an oil painting to look at — standing a meter tall, it looks like a bin with arms — but it can provide vital help for the aged or handicapped at home.
Capable of handling and manoeuvring a variety of objects, it also provides a key interface with the outside world via its Internet-connected screen for a head.
Japan’s manpower shortage is felt especially keenly in the retail and construction sectors and firms at the summit were keen to demonstrate their latest solutions.
Omron showcased a robot that can be programmed to glide around a supermarket and place various items into a basket. Possibly useful for a lazy — or infirm — shopper but more likely to be put to use in a logistics warehouse.
Japan also has difficulty finding staff to stack shelves at its 55,000 convenience stores open 24/7 and here too, robots can fill the gap.
With buildings going up at breakneck pace as Tokyo prepares to welcome the world for the 2020 Olympics, there are construction sites all over the city but not always enough people to work them.
Enter HRP-5P. The snappily named, humanoid-shaped machine certainly has the look of a brawny builder, at 182cm tall and weighing in at 101 kilogrammes.
And HRP-5P is designed to carry out the same construction tasks that humans currently perform — even when left to its own devices.
HRP-5P “can use the same tools as a man, which is why we gave it the shape of a human — two legs, two arms and a head,” explained one of its creators, Kenji Kaneko from the National Advanced Industrial Science and Technology research facility.
Manufacturers were also promoting the latest in talking robots, which are becoming increasingly “intelligent” in their responses.
Sharp’s Robohon, a cute-as-pie humanoid robot standing only 20 centimeters tall, has been employed since last month to recount to tourists the history of the ancient Imperial capital of Kyoto — in English, Japanese or Chinese.
And very popular among Japanese visitors to the World Robot Summit was a robot replica of Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, one of the country’s top TV stars.
Created in collaboration with Japanese robotics master Hiroshi Ishiguro, the robot replicates the 85-year-old’s facial expressions almost perfectly but conversation with the machine hardly flows.
“The difficulty is being able to create fluid conversations with different people,” said Junji Tomita, engineer at telecoms giant NTT which is also involved in the project.
“The number of possible responses to an open question is so vast that it is very complicated,” admitted Tomita.


New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

Updated 20 January 2019
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New Saudi TV drama ‘Doon’ asks how far you would go to save a loved one

  • “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison
  • He is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit

JEDDAH: A new Saudi drama series is set to premiere, in the latest sign that the Kingdom’s booming film and TV industry is going from strength to strength. “Doon” tells the story of a 19-year-old’s struggle to free his older brother from prison, where he is about to be executed for a crime he did not commit.
“He has to obtain SR 25 million to get his brother out of jail,” said scriptwriter Sara Al-Olayan. “He comes from a very humble kind of family; they don’t have much money and he has to find it before the execution date.
“We see how motives can kind of play with a person’s morals when it comes to someone they truly love. Morals, I would say, can shift when a person is trying to do whatever they can to get a person they care about out of jail.”
Al-Olayan joined other members of the cast and crew at film production company Millimeter on January 18 for a special event to launch the series. The 22-year-old writer said that when she joined the production there was little more than a brief description of the plot, and she was given the chance to play a major part in expanding and shaping the story.
“I fell in love with the summary of the show right away and felt that I had to be part of this,” she said. “I did my best to expand on it, to develop the story and include more characters, and to make sure that the story is culturally acceptable while also something people can relate to.”


Naif Al-Daferi, who stars as Hazem, the falsely accused older brother, is confident that the show will be hit with young people in the Kingdom.
“They will see a good representation of their community, especially the youth, and that the series talks about high schoolers not in a comedic way or in a way that insults their intelligence, so people in school will watch it,” said the 30-year-old Saudi actor. “It is the same kind of content that we expect to see in western productions — viewers will get action and drama. The premise is a big one: you have to save your brother through high-risk means.”

Co-star Fay Fouad, 23, highlighted the advances made recently by Saudi women in the local entertainment industries.
“Now we can show the world who Saudi women are and what they are capable of,” she said. “As an actress, I can tell stories from our society and portray the characters accordingly. I can tell the stories of the girls around me, and when they see me on television they see that we (women) can do it. Nothing is difficult for us.”


She said that the entire cast of “Doon” is proud of the local production.
“We are all Saudis and we are very happy with the story,” she added. “It is a unique plot, not stereotyped like other stories. It is full of surprising events. Each cast member put their heart into it and I am looking forward to its release.”
Fellow cast member Daliah Hajjar said Saudi Vision 2030 had helped to make her childhood dream come true.
“It is a wonderful feeling because I have wanted to become an actress since childhood,” said the 29-year-old Saudi. “Back in the day, such an idea wasn’t supported. My family wanted me to study medicine and so I did. I completed my studies abroad and I came home to the Saudi Vision 2030. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greatly support women. There has been a great leap forward for Saudi women during this time. I feel supported.”
“Doon” is produced by Viu Original (MENA) in cooperation with Qubba Production.