Robot identifying face mask
Design: Saiko Miyasato

This Japanese robot can detect whether a person is wearing a face mask

Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka is testing out a robot which politely asks bare-faced visitors to mask up

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada

As businesses around Japan reopen and life gradually returns to some kind of normal, social distancing and wearing a face mask have become an essential part of going out. Hamamatsu city in Shizuoka prefecture has taken things one step further, testing out a robot which can identify whether a person is wearing a mask or not.

Ieyasu-kun, the robot is based on the Hamamatsu city mascot, which is inspired by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun and de facto leader of Japan from 1603 until 1616. Ieyasu spent a number of years living in Hamamatsu, which is why the city adopted him as a mascot.  

Ieyasu’s shiny new robot form has been tested at a tourist information centre in Hamamatsu. Visitors who stand in front of it are greeted with a bow and the robot says ‘thank you for putting on a mask’ in Japanese. If the visitor doesn’t have a mask on, the robot will inform them that ‘wearing a mask is effective in preventing the spread of the virus’. 

The robot technology was initially developed to help identify suspicious people wearing masks but has found a whole new use during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. There’s no telling if these robots will become a regular fixture around the city or elsewhere in Japan, but they sure could come in handy to remind us all to mask up, even over summer.

For tips on how to go out safely in Tokyo, or anywhere for that matter, read our guide.

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