Robot Graduation: Japanese University Hosts Ceremony Amid COVID-19

University graduates in Japan attend ceremony via robot avatars amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brad Bergan
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A university in Japan found a way to carry out graduation ceremonies without breaking social distance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a story published on the university blog.

And it involves robots.


Robot graduation in a time of COVID-19

The Business Breakthrough University (BBT University) held a graduation ceremony on Mar. 28 at the Hotel Grand Palace, in Chiyoda, Tokyo, reports the website Mothership.

While the world practices social distancing to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, nominal ceremonies like weddings, birthday parties, and now graduation ceremonies are being reinvented with the aid of technology.

Instead of attending their ceremony, these student graduates in Japan remotely operated "newme" robots that accepted certificates of graduation on behalf of their human avatars.

Business Breakthrough University
Business Breakthrough University students at the ceremony with certificates. Source: Business Breakthrough University

The newme robots were developed by ANA Holdings and featured a display screen that shows the faces of the four graduates, with "arms" designed to receive their certificates for the humans.

Taking a cue from traditional garbs, the robots were donned in graduation gowns and each wore a motherboard.

Business Breakthrough University 2
Business Breakthrough University participants comment via Zoom in real-time. Source: Business Breakthrough University

The other graduates participating in the ceremony also joined via Zoom, and sent comments in real-time to voice the usual graduation sentiments throughout the event.

It can be said that technology is being reshaped to bridge the gap between cultural touchstones of ordinary life, and the new life in isolation that much of the world is now confronting as a status quo.

While for most this means remote working and schooling, birthdays — often a rare gem of memory for children — remain events for which a party is deserved. Late in March, a class of fourth-graders showed a classmate some love by greeting the child — turning 10 that day — on her mother's computer screen, according to a local news source.

However original our ways of using technology to bridge the gap between social functions amid social distancing and COVID-19, one could say: the more we do it, the more technological mediation itself takes center-stage in our lives.

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