Coronavirus quarantine can be lonely, but at one Tokyo hotel converted to accept patients with mild symptoms, a humanoid robot will be there to offer support and encouragement — as well as admonishments and warnings.
“You can’t fight the coronavirus on an empty stomach. Please eat well to get healthy,” is among the messages that the pint-sized Pepper robot will be delivering to coronavirus patients waiting out their quarantine at one Tokyo establishment.
The local government has been working with hotels to secure rooms for patients with mild symptoms, hoping to free up space in hospitals that are feeling the strain.
And at one facility, arrivals will be interacting with Pepper, a white, humanoid robot with round eyes and a tablet attached to its front, who will be sporting a face mask while in service at the hotel.
“The patients are quarantined for two weeks, so we’re using a reception robot to help the patients feel a bit more mentally comfortable,” Tokyo government spokeswoman Naoko Kubota told reporters.
Tokyo’s government has so far made deals with five hotels, securing around 2,800 rooms for coronavirus patients, though only 200 are currently in use.
“Since patients are infected with COVID-19, it is not possible to have a real person to interact with,” said Kan Kiyota, marketing director of SoftBank, which makes the Pepper robot.
“This is where the robot comes in.”