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Japanese university held virtual graduation ceremony using robots and zoom app

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, every field of life has been brutally affected but timings could not have been worse for students graduating this fall. Most universities have delayed graduation ceremonies which would not matter to most but would be another hurdle for students trying to find a job. The Business Breakthrough (BBT) University of Tokyo, however, paved a way to carry out the graduation ceremony despite the coronavirus risks.

On March 28th at the Hotel Grand Palace the university used remote-controlled robots and held a Virtual Graduation Ceremony Using Robots. The students used the zoom application to display their faces on the robots via video call and showed up at the stage when called.

Robots developed by ANA Group were used for the virtual graduation ceremony

The robots which were used as avatars for the graduation ceremony are developed by ANA group. The company named these robots as the ‘Newme’ robots. The ceremony comprised of four students and a few administration members physically present at the venue to avoid large gatherings whilst the rest of the graduates virtually attended the graduation ceremony via the zoom application. Graduates’ faces were displayed on the tablet atop the avatar as the robots were dressed in the traditional graduation gowns and caps.

Virtual Graduation Ceremony
Image: Business Breakthrough (BBT) University of Tokyo

How the virtual ceremony was convened?

As the name of the student was called, the avatar would move to the University’s president, Omae Kinchi, who stood at the stage, the student’s whose name was called would appear on the screen and could witness receiving the diploma as they would have in their traditional graduation ceremony. The process continued as the name of the graduates were called one by one and they were represented by these handy avatars.

The dean of BBT university said they took the initiative to encourage educational institutes to take advantage of the advanced technology and just like all the organizations, run from home, mainly advising all universities to hold virtual graduation ceremonies. BBT did manage to influence a few institutes, a few elementary school students held a virtual graduation ceremony in the famous video game, ‘Minecraft’ while the students at the University took the idea to the next step and constructed a replica of their university campus in Minecraft and have planned to organize a graduation ceremony there. Virtual gatherings is quite common these days but it is always intriguing to see what the young minds come up with using all the technology available, clear are examples of these virtual graduation ceremonies which were successfully initiated by the BBT.

Virtual Graduation Ceremony
Image: Business Breakthrough (BBT) University of Tokyo

BBT is not the first one to hold a virtual graduation ceremony

However, BBT was not the first one to do so. In 2018, the University of Glasgow allowed three long distanced students who could not attend their graduation to virtually attend it via the same concept; the only exception would be the use of a different remote-controlled robot. University of Glasgow used a car dressed in a black gown, with an iPad attached to it for the purpose of virtually presenting those three students.

The students were not at all demotivated about attending their graduation as so and not being able to personally witness the receiving of the diploma as one of the students on March 31st said that at the time of enrolling, he would never have imagined attending his graduation ceremony via an avatar that he would get to control, and was grateful for experiencing such a novel experience.

The video below shows the working of Newme robots developed by ANA Group, which were used by Business Breakthrough (BBT) University of Tokyo for holding their virtual graduation ceremony.

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