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Robots roam Tokyo's newest train station to patrol and sweep

Takanawa Gateway features AI guide for assisting passengers

Cleaning robots at Takanawa Gateway Station will sweep the floors autonomously overnight, covering about 2,000 sq. meters.  (Photo by Taro Yokosawa)

TOKYO -- The newest train station on central Tokyo's iconic Yamanote line will employ robots and artificial intelligence to reduce labor and assist riders.

Takanawa Gateway Station, set to open Saturday, will install six types of robots capable of handling such tasks as guiding passengers, cleaning the station and performing security duties.

The station will feature digital displays equipped with artificial intelligence, operating in multiple languages to help customers navigate train connections and obtain street directions to nearby restaurants. East Japan Railway, the operator of the Yamanote line, hopes to make Takanawa Gateway the model for next-generation stations.

"By gathering the world's latest technologies, we will create a station and city with a high level of convenience, and share that with the world," said JR East official Mie Miwa, who unveiled the station and spoke with reporters Monday.

JR East invested about 19 billion yen ($180 million) in preparing Takanawa Gateway, which is located between Shinagawa and Tamachi stations and represents the Yamanote line's first new stop in 49 years. The company plans to invest about 500 billion yen by 2030, including for the development of commercial establishments nearby such as hotels and offices.

Cleaning robots will sweep the station floors autonomously overnight, covering about 2,000 sq. meters, while janitors focus on tasks such as cleaning the bathrooms.

Robots equipped with a camera will patrol the station, identifying suspicious individuals and alerting security personnel. They also can warn anyone nearby, using alarms and flashing lights. While security guards normally patrol in pairs, the robot can substitute for one person.

Mobility assistance robots, shaped like a wheelchair, are also among the six types to be introduced.

Such technology will be installed at stores in the station. A fully automated Touch-to-Go convenience store in the station will let customers walk through the shop and buy products without going through a cashier. Fifty cameras installed inside the store will identify customers and products. Customers can use their transit smart cards, such as Suica, for payment.

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