Engineers have developed a robot that can detect whether people are wearing a mask to protect them against COVID – 19 and if not, politely remind them to put one on.
The feature is an upgrade of Pepper, a 120cm (47 inch) tall robot with human-like features that is already in operation in some countries welcoming visitors to shops, exhibitions, and other public spaces.
Pepper’s camera scans the faces of people approaching it, and if it detects the lower half of their face is uncovered, it says the phrase: “You have to always wear a mask properly.”
If it sees that the visitor then puts on a mask, the robot follows up with the scentence: “Thank you for having put on your mask.”
Jonathan Boiria, head of sales in Europe for SoftBank Robotics, the company behind Pepper. Said that the idea is not to have a robot police whether people are wearing masks, but to give a friendly reminder.
Boiria said “Shops have to assign people at the entrance, a lot of people, to ensure respect for the wearing of masks, and sometimes that is a stretch,”
“A robot allows you to free up some people so they can focus on their normal tasks.”
“We’re all human. Sometimes I take off my mask when I get off the bus and I forget to put it back on when I arrive at the office. The robot provides a reminder. We can all get it wrong or forget.”