"No cuts, no buts, no coconuts." Every school-age child knows the cardinal rule of queuing. But a new development in Japan may consign that helpful rhyme to history.
What you see here is the ProPilot Chair from Nissan, a clever spinoff of the Japanese automaker's driverless-car tech and a sequel to its recent self-parking chair for corporate conference rooms. The new seat takes its inspiration from Nissan's ProPilot semi-autonomous car technology. The system, which became available in the company's home-market Serena minivan in August, aims to ease the burden of driving in dense, stop-and-go traffic by using sensors to keep the vehicle centered in its lane and maintain a consistent distance behind the vehicle ahead.
Similarly, the ProPilot Chair relieves its occupants of the tedium of standing in queue. The motorised seat — can we call it a vehicle? — features a base with an omnidirectional electric drive system and embedded cameras that monitor the position of the next-in-queue chair. Weight sensors detect the arrival or departure of an occupant; empty chairs automatically excuse themselves from the queue and report to the end of the line, and the rest of the queue advances along a set path. So sittees are free to amuse themselves as they are transported forward in an a consistent and orderly fashion — no cuts, no buts, no coconuts.
Before you sneer at the technology, which could indeed make sedentary and antisocial humans even more sedentary and antisocial, and may indeed be little more than a cheeky publicity stunt designed to sell minivans, consider this: Close to 27% of the Japanese population is over the age of 65 — and by 2050, the government puts that figure as high as 40%. This is a population for whom standing for long periods can be especially challenging, and although labour-saving technology continues to evolve, the age-old task of public queuing — whether for tempura don at Kaneko Hannosuke in Tokyo's Nihonbashi area or an iPhone 7 at the Apple Store in Ginza — is going nowhere fast.
Nissan will commence a public trial of its robochair in Japan in 2017, installing sets of them at select restaurants where queuing is the norm.
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