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Tokyo -
The Resolve of a Megacity

Series #3 / 3

SUPPORTING A NEW WAY OF LIFE THROUGH INNOVATION

The coronavirus crisis has resulted in numerous innovations driven by the fusion of Japanese creativity and technology, leading toward the emergence of a new Tokyo that is both safe and secure.

An entrance gate in an office building using NEC’s infection countermeasures and solutions. When a person whose facial data has been preregistered approaches the gate, the door opens automatically, with his or her body surface temperature also measured in a contactless manner.

INFECTION COUNTERMEASURES EVOLVING TOGETHER WITH TECHNOLOGY

The world-class technological strengths of two types of companies—large multinational corporations and venture companies with glocal (global+local) strengths—are uniting to support Tokyo’s strength in creating innovations that protect people from infectious diseases.

To effectively prevent infections from spreading in spaces such as Tokyo’s office buildings, stadiums, and stations, where people get together in densely packed situations, NEC has developed infection countermeasures and solutions. These have been carefully crafted to suit various environments through the flexible combination of the world’s most precise facial-recognition and image-analysis technology in the use of thermal cameras.

Those measures begin with such basic steps as the measurement of visitors’ body surface temperatures via thermal cameras, along with selective admission through security gates based on the recognition of preregistered facial data. They also include the seamless identification of possible infectious persons whose body surface temperatures exceed pre-established levels, with the appropriate authorities swiftly notified about such cases along with the persons’ facial data.

An entrance gate in an office building using NEC’s infection countermeasures and solutions. When a person whose facial data has been preregistered approaches the gate, the door opens automatically, with his or her body surface temperature also measured in a contactless manner.

By expanding such functions, it is possible to monitor the level of crowding in real time, using signage to raise awareness and lead people to maintain social distancing, as well as detecting whether people are wearing masks or not. “As most Japanese abide by face mask conventions, it is expected that an even more advanced facial-recognition engine will emerge,” said a person working on the project.

Another innovation is the WOSH system, the world’s first portable handwashing device utilizing self-contained water circulation, developed by WOTA CORP. in Tokyo. Japan boasts a longstanding culture of hygiene, symbolized by the tradition of chozu, the washing and purifying of one’s hands at the entrances of Shinto shrines. The goal is to apply that culture and tradition to protecting the world, particularly in places without available plumbing infrastructure, as the washing of hands at entrance points has been proven to be one of the most effective measures against infection.

With just one 20-liter tank of water, the system can be used to wash 500 pairs of hands. Even if one of the users has the coronavirus, advanced filters block it out, with additional chlorination and UV exposure further guaranteeing safety. The system has already been installed at stores in Ginza and Shinjuku, and local governments are cooperating to identify where handwashing needs are the highest.

A WOSH device installed outside a store in Tokyo’s Ginza, encouraging people to wash their hands before entering.

Macro-level policies succeed by connecting a multitude of points in a giant network, while micro-level policies work by being integrated closely with people’s lives. Tokyo is weaving a new safety net that will ensure its safety while enabling the economy to continue operating efficiently.

Participants in the Tokyo Robot Collection can operate an avatar robot on the site remotely, moving the robot and its camera around as they wish in order to see what they want, and talking to on-site visitors via a microphone.

SOCIAL INTIMACY BROUGHT TO YOU BY ROBOTS

Tokyo Robot Collection is a project promoted by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to showcase a future Tokyo where robots, created by entities in the city with state-of-the-art technology, can coexist with humans—a future in which anyone can live a fulfilling life that is convenient, fun and happy. The project highlights model cases where robots provide humans with such services as mobility assistance, guidance, security, and transport.

During 2020, amid the pandemic, robots were introduced in three venues—a hotel temporarily transformed into a facility for patients with mild cases of coronavirus, a mixed-use commercial and office development, and a large-scale business and commercial complex—to show how they can respond to the quickly growing need for remote, contactless services. They did such jobs as automatically bringing people drinks, carrying linens and toiletries, cleaning and disinfecting, and enabling remote communication, thereby reducing the risk of infection while contributing to the continuation of social and economic activities.

One of those was the ‘newme’ robot, developed by avatarin Inc., which went to event venues in place of persons unable to travel, using a video camera to view what took place, as well as actually communicating with on-site visitors. One participant said, “With newme as my avatar, I could freely move about the site using remote control, letting me change my viewing angle at will, which allowed me to appreciate the atmosphere at the site better than ordinary Web conference tools.” Currently at the prototype stage, more than a thousand units will be ready for use by next summer. There are a wide variety of potential applications, such as hospital visits for those who are physically restricted owing to the coronavirus, along with more general uses such as sightseeing and shopping.

Participants in the Tokyo Robot Collection can operate an avatar robot on the site remotely, moving the robot and its camera around as they wish in order to see what they want, and talking to on-site visitors via a microphone.

In a separate project, a robot known as ‘Model-T’ was recently deployed stocking convenience store shelves in Tokyo. Developed by Telexistence, the robot is controlled remotely by staff in the stores, like a scene from a futuristic anime. As more establishments install the system, one person will be able to control robots in several different stores at once, further contributing to the prevention of infection. “AI lets the robots learn from the data collected, so we can increase their autonomy in the future. Besides using the robot for shelf stocking in stores, we are aiming at developing robots for logistics businesses to help them boost the efficiency of their warehouse operations,” explained one of the developers.

The Model-T stocking shelves in a convenience store. It can be operated from anywhere via the internet using VR goggles.

According to robot expert Professor Inami Masahiko of the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, “It’s not just a matter of having robots do something convenient for you. Tokyo’s robots appeal to your soul, making you excited and warming your heart. In the new era of living with the coronavirus, some say we have lost our physicality, meaning that we can no longer feel the warmth or presence of other persons. But thanks to these new robots, we can realize social intimacy while practicing social distancing. Instead of just being a preventive tool, it allows for more proactive measures. I believe that Tokyo can become a model showcase of that for the world’s future.”

Tokyo Gov. Koike Yuriko declares, “Tokyo is now aiming to become a more resilient city in the future.” She is working toward the realization of the Tokyo 2020 Games, moving beyond the coronavirus.

BUILDING A RESILIENT TOKYO

So far, Tokyo, as Japan’s capital, has taken many initiatives to protect against the spread of COVID-19 infection. It has implemented thorough measures calling on people to avoid the ‘Three Cs’ (closed spaces, crowded places, and close-contact settings), produced COVID-19 safety stickers for eating and drinking establishments to demonstrate their abidance to infection countermeasures, set up the Tokyo iCDC (Tokyo Center for Infectious Disease Control and Prevention), developed Tokyo’s COVID-19 Notification & Support Service utilizing state-of-the-art technology, and introduced robots. All of those moves have changed the consciousness of Tokyo citizens, steadily enabling them to live a new lifestyle characterized by safety and the feeling of security.

According to Tokyo Governor Koike Yuriko, “Everything depends on the hygiene consciousness of every Tokyo citizen and on their having the high moral standard of not creating trouble for others. Humanity has overcome many challenges with courage, innovation, and wisdom throughout history. Thus, I firmly believe we will overcome this pandemic. Tokyo is now aiming to become a more resilient city in the future, with the economy, society, and people recovering from their mental exhaustion owing to the coronavirus.”

Tokyo Gov. Koike Yuriko declares, “Tokyo is now aiming to become a more resilient city in the future.” She is working toward the realization of the Tokyo 2020 Games, moving beyond the coronavirus.

She continues by saying emphatically, “The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are a beacon of hope for the future, whereby all nations come together through the prism of sport. I would like Tokyo to take firm steps toward making the Games a resounding success as a symbol of humanity coming together as one, defeating the invisible enemy represented by the coronavirus, and strengthening ties further.”

Tokyo is pressing ahead at full force to make the day when the coronavirus can be defeated a reality, by uniting the city’s forces with the world’s.



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