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Robot rides elevator to deliver goods during convenience store test in Tokyo building

A robot is seen autonomously using the elevator to deliver products to customers on a different floor in Tokyo's Minato Ward on April 20, 2021. (Mainichi/Ayane Matsuyama)

TOKYO -- Convenience store giant Seven-Eleven Japan Co. and other firms showed a demonstration experiment to the media on April 20 where a robot rode an elevator to deliver products from an outlet to those who placed orders inside the building.

    The robot is roughly 76 centimeters high, can carry goods weighing up to about 10 kilograms and runs autonomously on wheels. Companies are seeking various ways to distribute products amid the coronavirus pandemic due to high demand for no-contact, no face-to-face interactions with customers.

    The experiment started in January at telecommunications giant Softbank Corp.'s headquarters in Tokyo's Minato Ward, but items were only delivered to those on the same floor as where the convenience store is located. On April 20, reporters watched as the robot took an elevator to a different floor. The robot is wirelessly linked with the elevator system to specify where it wants to get off or on. From April 21, the robot began to deliver items to customers on different floors.

    When workers at Softbank place an order on a dedicated website, convenience store staff put the ordered products inside the robot, which then moves while avoiding passersby using a 3D camera and ultrasonic waves. When it arrives at its destination, it sends a password to the customer's smartphone, and customers can enter the password on the robot's LCD display to open the lid and receive the items.

    The robot was created by Tokyo-based Asratec Corp., a SoftBank Group Corp. affiliate that works on robot control systems. According to Seven-Eleven, it is still unclear when the robot delivery system will be put into practical use.

    (Japanese original by Ayane Matsuyama, Business News Department)

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