“Do you watch anime?”
“Do you read manga?”
“What are your recommendations?”
“What is your favourite?” (RT, Newcastle upon Tyne, 18/12/20)
In my four years of living in Europe, these are the questions that people always ask me whenever they find out that I’m Japanese. I don’t know if this is just me or something. But the notion of being Japanese for some cultures corresponds to anime and manga. Well, mostly that’s true – at least for me.
I’m always updated with the latest episode of my favourite manga or anime. I enjoy talking and reminiscing about memorable scenes and episodes from One Piece, Detective Conan, and Sword Art Online to name a few. If I am to recommend one, it will definitely be Sword Art Online. As a gamer and an anime enthusiast, I have been constantly watching Sword Art Online – a Japanese anime series that focuses on several virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG).
In this anime, the players can control their in-game characters using their mind through a virtual reality headset called “NerveGear” which can stimulate the player’s five senses via their brain (1). The users have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the virtual world and build their own experiences from the roles/characters that they chose. When I first watched this anime, it really gave me goosebumps!
It is fair to say that this anime-inspired me to know more about virtual reality technology in general. As a newbie in this area, I purchased a VR headset for me to experience it first-hand and to understand what VR can offer. From the pool of VR headsets, I chose Oculus Quest. For me, it is really good since it is portable and totally wireless. Another good thing: You can use the Oculus link to connect and unlock PC VR content. Cool, right? Right now, I’m enjoying games like Beat Saver (VR rhythm game) and The Room VR (mystery puzzle game). The feeling that I’m interacting IN the game is just so fun!
Aside from the advancement in terms of entertainment and game industries, virtual reality technology is advancing at a rapid rate. The current COVID-19 pandemic forces us to reconsider our work lifestyle from avoiding the crowd and working remotely nowadays. Most of the companies are trying to explore how virtual reality technology can become a game-player in their respective fields.
While browsing through Asahi digital newspaper, I came across an interesting article. It is about two famous convenience chain stores (FamilyMart and Lawson) that will introduce a remote-controlled robot operated in VR (2). According to the article, both companies have collaborated with Tokyo-based robotic company Telexistence to start using the human-shaped robots. The robot that they have developed stocks beverage shelves controlled by an off-site employee via VR headset. See the video below.
The operation started in the FamilyMart Toshima Ecomusée Town store and Lawson Model T Tokyo port Takeshiba store on August 26 and September 14, 2020, respectively (3). The idea of this technology is that as long as there is a stable internet connection, one operator can control multiple stores from a remote location. This will help reduce both COVID-19 cases and the labour problems that Japan is currently facing. The shortage of labour workforce forces an expansion to the elderly and disabled. With this technology, these problems will be addressed and managed. I dare say, this will be a game-changer in the traditional working operation platform.
But since it is still in the experimental stage, the robot movements are not as smooth as compared to the real people. As the development progresses, the accumulated data from the remote operator and the robots will be analysed to increase the rate of automatic control as well as accuracy and rate of movement. Maybe in the future, we will be seeing robots serving and running the convenience stores like in the SF movies. It is really interesting to see how big the impact of this technology in terms of Japan’s work-style reform will be in the future and how people will adapt to it. We’ll see.