Train travel sucks most of the time, unless you’re in the hyper-clean, futuristic world of Japan where everything is about 10 times cooler. So, naturally, Japan’s making the experience even better with robots.
The robots are rolling out in Tokyo’s Takanawa Gateway Station, located between the Shinagawa and Tamachi JR lines. Aussies that have travelled to Japan will be familiar with the JR network, since it’s common to buy a JR rail pass if you’re travelling to Japan.
The robots were trialled for a week in June this year, and this week JR East announced that the support robots will be rolled out on a full-time basis from 2024.
“The robots will provide travellers with train transfer information, act as security guards, carry heavy luggage, serve food, clean the station facilities and equipment as well as providing a barrier-free environment for travellers with disabilities by transporting them inside and around the station,” JR East said in a media release.
You can see some shots of the robots below:
The cleaning robot will be responsible for sanitising handrails, benches and other parts of the station, using 3D cameras and sensors to avoid bumping into passengers, and avoiding other mishaps like falling down the stairs. Another robot will act as a mobile convenience store, offering snacks and small treats to those nearby. Another robot serves coffee.
A shot of the robots in action was posted online by Kyodo News, and you can see the little creatures hopping around. The food robot is so cute.
The robots are being introduced a little ahead of schedule. Originally, the plan was to have them rolled out by March 2025, but it’s likely that the COVID pandemic encouraged JR East — and the Tokyo City government, which is overseeing the rollout as part of a major renewal of the Shinagawa area — to speed up the timeline. When fully rolled out, the bots will service inside and outside of trains, sanitising all parts of the station while also acting as personal transport for the disabled and elderly.
All of this is being rolled out at Takanawa Gateway Station first, a major stop for the shinkansen bullet trains headed towards Osaka and onwards. JR East hopes it’ll act as a new benchmark for what modern train transport can look like.