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A Model-T that can stock shelves.... whaaat?

When crisis hits, innovation skyrockets. In Japan, the workforce is evolving in a brand new way: VR (Virtual Reality) controlled robots. With this new technology, employees are able to work from home while performing job duties like stocking shelves. In addition to maintaining inventory throughout the store, this robot, named Model-T after Ford's famous automobile, comes equipped with microphones and headphones so that the employee operating it can continue to provide customer service by communicating with patrons in the store.

Telexistence, the Japanese start-up that's pioneering the experience, said the robot can be controlled from anywhere in the world. The first trials have begun with FamilyMart, a major chain of Japanese convenience stores. Their goal is to have the Model-T in 20 stores by 2022, then eventually expanding to every store in the Japan.

With Japan's aging population, the Model-T can potentially fill the labor shortage there by enabling stores to operate with fewer employees, with one person potentially working at multiple stores with the remote-controlled robots.

While the Model-T robot may help minimize social interaction and fill a labor gap, the robot does have its limitations. Since its launch in 2017, the robot can stock shelves at a rate of 8 seconds per item, while a human can restock at a rate of 5 seconds per item. Also, the Model-T can currently only handle packaged items, but Telexistence is developing its capabilities to handle fresh items like sandwiches and fruit. They also plan to use A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) to teach it to mimic human movements and possibly enable it to perform without a human operator.

Adapting to a new reality

For businesses (and for all of us really), 2020 has been quite the year of adapting. Some workers have permanently shifted from the office to their homes, and retail businesses have had to develop new store policies and procedures to keep workers and customers safe. Technology, like the Model-T robot, is another example of how businesses are adapting. Would you incorporate robots into your workforce? Do you think this will become the new standard? Has your business implemented any new technology to adapt to social distancing standards and policies? We'd love to hear your story! Email us: or give us a call: (303) 536-5505.


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