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East Japan Railway Company (JR East) has become the world’s first
railway company to develop a humanoid robot guide. JR East spent
two years working with a Japanese robot manufacturer to develop
the droid, nicknamed “I” (which stands for “information”), who the
company is now grooming for employment at train stations.
"I" stands 120 centimeters (4 ft) tall, weighs 50 kilograms (110 lbs)
and is equipped with a Suica card (JR’s rechargeable contactless train
pass) reader on its shoulder and a touch screen on its chest that can
display a variety of data. The robot moves around on wheels and is
nimble enough to spin around in place.
I’s future duties include providing assistance at customer service
windows, performing security patrols around stations at night,
and assisting station workers with other duties as needed.
As of now, the robot’s reception skills include the ability to read Suica
cards held near its shoulder and ring telephones to notify representatives
of customers in need. The robot can also show customers to reception
areas and it can point the direction to the restrooms if asked.
Face and voice recognition skills allow it to carry on simple conversations
with the people it encounters.