TOKYO (Reuters)-Spring graduation ceremonies in Japan have been canceled due to a coronavirus pandemic, but students in one school have been able to attend remotely by controlling avatar robots while logging in at home.
The robots, dubbed “Newme” by ANA Holdings, were dressed in graduation caps and gowns for the ceremony at the Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo.
The “faces” of the robots were tablets that showed the faces of the graduates who logged on at home and controlled the robots via their laptops.
One by one, the robots went to the podium to receive their diplomas. School staff clapped and said “thank you!” as University President Kenichi Ohmae placed the diplomas on a rack mounted on the robot’s middle section.
“I think it’s really a novel experience to receive a certificate in a public space while I’m in a private space,” Kazuki Tamura said on his computer avatar when he received his Master’s degree.
The university hopes its approach can be adopted by other schools looking to avoid mass gatherings.
Reflecting the human world, however, the school limited the ceremony to just four graduates so that the robots could practice social distancing amid the pandemic.
(Reporting by Hideto Sakai and Akiko Okamoto; Writing by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Giles Elgood)