Forbes | Society 5.0 Town Turns Heads At Japan’s CEATEC Tech Show
Thursday November 28, 2019
We’ve all tried Google Street View before, but what if you could explore the world and see faraway places through the eyes of a roving machine?
At the recent Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (CEATEC) outside Tokyo, telepresence robots equipped with displays showing their remote users were turning heads on the show floor. These simple machines are basically webcams on wheels, but they formed a striking example of how a system that combines hardware in the physical world with online users and cloud-based artificial intelligence will become part of everyday life.
Robots that teleport your consciousness
Developed by OhmniLabs and ANA HOLDINGS INC., the parent company of All Nippon Airways, the newme Avatar telepresence robots are up to 150 cm tall and roll around on a wheeled base at speeds up to 2.9 kph. They’re topped by a 10.1-inch display showing a remote user, who can view the robot’s surroundings via its embedded full-HD 2K camera. The company says the robots are a new way to connect people and will allow elderly and disabled people to expand their social participation. It plans to deploy 1,000 of the robots by summer 2020. At CEATEC 2019, the company also showed off an all-terrain, bipedal version of the avatar robot that can walk through forests and into remote locations.
“The idea behind this is that you don’t need to teleport your body, just your consciousness,” says Akira Fukabori, director of ANA HOLDINGS INC.’s Avatar Division. “If you have a physical limitation, you can just teleport your consciousness and you have a new body, and you can communicate and expand your abilities. This is the kind of mobility that we want to introduce to the world.”
Building a next-generation society
Drawing large crowds to their booth, the newme Avatar robots were in a section of the CEATEC trade show called Society 5.0 Town. Located at the very heart of the show, the town was made up of exhibitors developing mechanisms that will help people in a new age of cyber-physical integration. This concept of the future follows historical periods of development based on hunting and gathering, agriculture, industry, and information. Japan’s Cabinet Office offers one definition as follows: “A human-centered society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space.” For CEATEC, which marked its 20th anniversary in 2019, that vision of the future goes hand-in-hand with the exhibition’s overall theme of connecting society and co-creating the future.
“Our mission is to illustrate this ultra-smart society, and we are proudly announcing that CEATEC is a showcase for Society 5.0,” says Kiyoshi Shikano, executive producer in the CEATEC Organizing Committee, which hosts the exhibition. “This is important because Japan is the most advanced country in terms of the problem of aging societies, and the Japanese electronics industry is not expected to grow as it did in the first decade of this century.”
To learn more about Society 5.0 Town and OhmniLabs’ custom robotics development, click here.