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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Japanese Security Is A Dalek Away

Just as The Simpsons long ago lampooned the iconic Star Trek television series with the immortal line: “Again with the Klingons?”, so too might you utter something similar with news that Japan’s train stations may soon have a new robot system to help passengers.

 To be built by the East Japan Railways (JR East), the new JRE Robotics Station isn’t a train station run by robots who help you purchase a ticket.

No, rather JE East’s plan for its coming one year soon JRE Robotics Station is to have each large hub contain a team of robots with four different classifications.

1) Yes, there will be a robot squad that will help travelers find their way around a train station.  Okay… that could be helpful - but even myself, with no sense of direction of Japanese language ability, and in the days before APPS and the Internet… I somehow found my way from point A to Point G, Q, C, E1 and to my destination of Point B. Hmm, so maybe this might come in handy.
The good news is that the plan is for these robots to have multiple-language capabilities… so yeah, Japanese (because even they get confused in these subterranean labyrinths), English, and then your guess is as good as mine… probably not Mandarin, in case Chinese boats and aircraft keep stepping over the international borders and that leads to another Japan-Sino war… why give them help in getting to the Diet or to the Palace to assassinate royalty? Maybe just Cantonese then… kidding.
We already have such devices in our large shopping malls in North America… they are called maps… all visual like an Ikea instruction manual for a GR├ľNKULLA (which translates from Danish to English as “Green Gables”, which is a nod to Canadian book Anne of Green Gables, but also Ikea’s version of a tabletop sink.

2) Red caps - self-piloting robots that will help carry a traveler's bags. In the bad old days, this was a job relegated to Black men wearing ‘red caps’ at the local train station. Now, anyone can be one. Even you, Robbie the Robot! And they don’t need a tip!
JR East says that while these types of robots CAN carry luggage, their primary function is to provide support to passengers with physical disabilities. Hey… that’s kindda cool.

3) Cleaning ‘bots… I’m guessing that some human beings are going to lose their jobs. For the most part, every train station in Japan that I’ve walked across seems clean. Yeah, things get messy after someone jumps in front of a train, or poops all over the platform, but crews are often there to clean-up and hand out a pack of tissues before the guy has even pulled up his pants.
But, I suppose having a team of robots in a constant state of movement cleaning up after passengers isn’t a bad thing.
I can just imagine a robot eyeing me as I stand at Harajuku station eating my octopus on a bamboo stick (takoyaki)… waiting to see if I’m going to accidentally drop a tentacle, carelessly discard the skewer on the platform, or need a wipe (aka a small pack of tissue).

4) Security ‘droid. Not quite up to par with a conical killer Dalek, the concept drawings for the security robots have them looking kind of pear-like… which, for a conceptual drawing is probably a good thing. See image at very top.
“Excuse me, Security ‘Bot 47, but a man touched me right here.”
“In your hard drive?”
As you can see from the drawing, the security bot has spotted someone acting suspiciously… perhaps it was the tight perm, 9-1/2 fingers and tattoos that ultimately tipped it off…

While I don’t think we could expect to see a reverse scene of Will Smith chasing down a would-be purse-snatching robot, JR East says these security robots would be able to detect shoplifters. If it’s anything like what exists in Canada and the U.S., the security robot will immediately detect any Latinos or Blacks as they enter a station-located ramen house and will casually follow them around as they make their food choice, eat their food, pay for their food and even go to the washroom until such time as they leave the restaurant and then it’s someone else’s problem. Man… I gotta stop watching W. Kamau Bell’s United Shades of America on CNN.

Okay, just having fun… it is supposed to detect shoplifters, but honestly, if shops have a security system whereby all products with QR codes or bar codes are NOT scanned before the exit of a shop, the theft alarm sounds off. I’m pretty sure that system would cost lest than a JR robot security guard.

But, if they are going to make one, do not let the security robot sit in a rocking chair. Seinfeld fans know what I mean.

Not just limited to train stations, JR East says these JR robots could work other JR things as well… like its hotels or shopping malls. So, yeah… kiss your jobs good bye if you are in the security industry. Time to start learning “robot care and repair.”

Bonsai (yeah… I meant the tiny tree),
Andrew Joseph
PS: Any bets on when the first robot gets “pushed” onto a train track by drunken Japanese business men in a work-related team-building exercise?


  1. Perhaps one of the robots can help you find Platform #9 3/4? Also, when did you see evidence of anyone in Japan pooping all over a platform??? :-)


      I'm dropping the mic.