Niigata city tests remote customer service

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The avatar of a civil servant in the Niigata city government appears on the screen to attend to visitors at the Niigata City Sangyo Shinko Center.

NIIGATA — The avatar of a civil servant on a screen greets and assists visitors at the Niigata City Sangyo Shinko (industrial promotion) Center.

The city government is testing remote customer service at the center’s 5G Business Lab in Chuo Ward until the end of March.

Civil servants at the government’s Furumachi Office — a 20-minute drive from the center — appear on the screen set up on the center’s first floor. They are displayed as an avatar in the test.

The city created the lab in September last year to support the creation of new businesses using the high-speed, high-capacity 5G communications standard. The avatar system is part of the city’s goals to make a facility equipped with various digital technology.

The system is expected to follow physical distancing measures urged amid the pandemic while also eliminating the need to regularly station staff.

The system is a remote customer service tool called TimeRep developed by UsideU, based in Toshima Ward, Tokyo. The display also plays the role of a direction board that streams images and videos.