What is needed in the future to prevent infection is the evolution of technology. Non-contact is inevitable in the process of evolving technology. People are exposed to the risk of infection because they are usually involved, but the risk of infection is eliminated by automating by non-contact.
Technology that realizes "non-contact" in the corona era
Technologies such as digital human (virtual human) technology, alter ego robots, and industrial robots are now attracting attention. Looking ahead to the era of with corona and after corona, we will introduce the technology that realizes "non-contact" that has already begun to be used.
Digital human that enables "non-contact"
With the spread of the new coronavirus infection, it was required to avoid the "three-cs" of closed, dense and close, and reduce contact with people by 80%. Meanwhile, various technologies that realize "non-contact" are attracting attention.
One of them is "digital human technology". Digital human technology digitizes and analyzes the mechanism and movement of the human body, and reproduces the movement in virtual space as if it were a real human being. This technology has been used primarily in the manufacturing industry. First, I would like to introduce how digital human technology has been utilized.
For example, Asahi Denso, which manufactures electrical components such as switch parts for automobiles and motorcycles, uses digital human technology to create safe and easy-to-use products. Specifically, an infrared reflection marker is attached to a human hand to measure how the switch is operated, and a model of the hand operated using the switch is reproduced on a computer using digital human technology. By quantitatively evaluating the operability of the switch, we are developing a module that can be operated without any discomfort without imposing an unnecessary burden.
Mazda, an automobile manufacturer, is utilizing digital human technology for the development of automobiles. We make equipment that imitates the window frame of a car, open and close the door, and scan the movement of people getting on and off with motion capture. A digital human reproduced on a computer conducted more than 200 boarding and alighting tests while slightly changing the angle. The accumulated data is analyzed and used to improve the operability and getting on and off of doors in vehicles.
Panasonic uses digital human technology to provide solutions that quantify usability, such as ease of use and visibility of products, mainly for the manufacturing industry.
For example, by providing housing equipment manufacturers with digital humans of various age groups and body shapes, equipment that can be used within the range where elderly people can easily reach out while sitting and with less physical burden. It is possible to check the shape of the house.
Also, by utilizing this solution in the factory, it will be possible to visualize the burden on operations such as picking up, carrying, and placing parts. As a result, improvements in on-site processes such as reduction of work load and efficiency can be expected.
Digital humans and alter ego robots become "instead of people"
In this way, in the field of manufacturing, digital human technology has already been utilized in the fields of design and product development. Now, looking ahead to the era of with corona, it is attracting attention from other industries as a technology that enables "non-contact".
For example, the fully autonomous digital human "SAM" developed by the startup "Soul Machines", which develops AI (artificial intelligence) solutions in New Zealand, has been used for measures against the new coronavirus.
SAM is equipped with AI and can talk as if it were a real human being. In New Zealand, there is already a movement to use Sam as a digital police officer, and in addition to using it for receiving and responding to emergency calls, attempts to respond to inquiries from patients as a digital doctor are also being conducted experimentally. ..
At the request of the New Zealand government, it is also used as a countermeasure against new coronavirus infections. A mechanism has been established for SAM to respond to various inquiries from the general public regarding the new coronavirus.
Although it is not completely autonomous like SAM, the utilization of digital human technology is already being promoted in services for general consumers in Japan. The apparel brand GU is debuting as a model of the virtual human "YU" that combines CG reproduction and AI.
Virtual human "YU"
In the retail industry, technology that enables non-contact such as unmanned stores has been introduced from an early stage, including the utilization of digital humans as one of the aims to solve the labor shortage. In the future, the utilization of digital humans is expected to accelerate further in the era of with corona and then after corona.
On the other hand, as a technology to realize non-contact in the field of business, the use of alter ego robots and industrial robots is advancing. OriHime's alter ego robot "OriHime" is being used for remote work, such as having an alter ego robot participate in a meeting instead of itself in the office.
Furthermore, OriHime was introduced at a facility that accepts people infected with the new coronavirus in Kanagawa Prefecture. It communicates with residents as an alter ego of facility staff and is used to prevent the spread of infection. Originally, the alter ego robot was developed for the purpose of supporting children who cannot attend school, attending classes from remote locations such as hospitals, and communicating with friends. In the future, this technology is also expected to be further utilized, including in the BtoB area, as a means of realizing non-contact communication.
OriHime introduced in accommodation facilities for patients with new coronavirus infection in Kanagawa Prefecture
Manufacturing industry changes with technology that realizes "non-contact"
In addition to digital human technology and alter ego robots, industrial robots can also be mentioned as technologies that realize non-contact. In the field of manufacturing, the introduction of industrial robots has been promoted for the purpose of improving productivity and solving labor shortages even before the spread of the new coronavirus infection.
For example, Mitsubishi Materials has been working on automation and unmanned recycling factories since 2015 in anticipation that a large number of flat-screen TVs will be replaced in ordinary households in 2020 and recycling demand will increase.
This "flat-panel TV disassembly system" is a system that grasps the position of the screw of the flat-screen TV mounted on the belt conveyor and automatically adjusts the speed as needed, and the robot quickly and surely based on that information. The technique of removing screws has been put into practical use. Currently, about 80% of the process is automated, but the ratio will be further increased in the future.
The utilization of such industrial robots is expected to progress further due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection. ZMP, which develops robots, is introducing a robot solution that realizes non-contact at the manufacturing site to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection on its website. For example, an unmanned solution for loading and unloading in and out of a warehouse that links an unmanned forklift and a distribution support robot can minimize human contact in the factory.
Unmanned solution for loading and unloading in the warehouse (from ZMP official website)
Kasai Kogyo, headquartered in Samukawa Town, Kanagawa Prefecture, is an automobile interior and exterior parts manufacturer that has introduced ZMP's robot solution. The company uses ZMP's logistics support robots to transport parts and semi-finished products in the factory. One person in charge operates multiple logistics support robots to streamline logistics within the factory. We are working to save labor in the factory and reduce contact with people as much as possible.
In this way, technologies that enable "non-contact" such as digital human technology, alter ego robots, and industrial robots are expected to be further utilized in the era of with corona and after-corona. Especially in the field of manufacturing, where it is difficult to realize a "non-contact" work environment such as factories, the efforts will be accelerated more and more.