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Japan sightseeing spot Hakone gets trilingual robot to cut tourists' human contact

A multilingual robot and a tablet are seen near the ticket gate at Hakone-Yumoto Station. (Photo courtesy of Odakyu Hakone Holdings Inc.)

HAKONE, Kanagawa -- To assist both domestic and inbound tourists, a multilingual tablet and humanoid robot were installed on March 3 near the ticket gates at Hakone-Yumoto Station in this popular east Japan town.

    Their installation is part of measures to prevent coronavirus infections by helping tourists avoid direct contact with human guides. The system, called "Amaryllis," consists of a tablet and a humanoid robot "Sota," which was developed by telecom firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corp. (NTT East). Sota can greet tourists with simple phrases, and the tablet offers information on topics including sightseeing facilities, shops, tickets for transportation and how to reach places. The information is available in English, Chinese and Japanese.

    Transportation operator Odakyu Hakone Holdings Inc. and tour company Odakyu Travel Co. conducted a demonstration test with NTT East using a multilingual robot in 2019. They said they opted to introduce the system based on the test's results. An Odakyu Hakone Holdings representative said, "With the contactless, non-face-to-face service, we'd like people to enjoy Hakone trips feeling safe and secure."

    (Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, City News Department)

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