Sony, ANA to jointly develop remotely controlled avatar robots

11, May. 2020

(Stick-shaped avatar robots shown to the media by ANA Holdings Inc. in Tokyo on Dec. 4, 2019)
(Stick-shaped avatar robots shown to the media by ANA Holdings Inc. in Tokyo on Dec. 4, 2019)

TOKYO, Kyodo - Sony Corp. and airline ANA Holdings Inc. said Monday they have agreed to work together to develop remotely controlled avatar robots.

Under the basic agreement, Sony AI Inc. will provide its artificial intelligence, robotics and sensing technologies to avatarin Inc. of the ANA group, a developer of stick-shaped avatar robots that can be controlled remotely by computers.

With the new coronavirus pandemic restricting human contact, the two companies hope to use the robots in a wide range of situations such as for teleworking, nursing care at homes and shopping as well as for sightseeing.

"There will be an increasing demand for various remote robotic solutions that can perform physical tasks, especially in high-risk environments and situations where human contact and movement are restricted," said Sony AI CEO Hiroaki Kitano.

The two companies aim to "establish a new social foundation for avatars and raise the level of social life," he said in a statement.

ANA has developed a mobile avatar robot with a tablet-sized monitor on top of its body that displays the controller's facial expressions in real time.

ANA has said it is developing its avatar technology to offer new services such as keeping in touch with aging parents living far away or having cabin attendants give lectures remotely.

Sony, a major manufacturer of image sensors used in smartphones, markets an AI-powered Aibo robot dog equipped with cameras and a range of sensors that enables its owner to remotely monitor children and the elderly at home. (Kyodo)