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Service with a fixed smile

The Japanese have come up with a solution for when good help’s hard to find.


At the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, visitors can expect traditional Japanese hospitality, or omotenashi, delivered in an innovative way: by robots. One developer, reports the Yomiuri Shimbun, has created a “one metre tall robot named Concierge. A bow tie on its neck, the robot knows when people approach through sensors in its chest.” Programmed to provide local advice and directions, Concierge currently only speaks Japanese, but “other languages are in the works”. Backers tell the Yomiuri it “could be useful early in the morning or late at night, when it’s difficult to get volunteers to come”.

A separate company is preparing “informative stuffed dolls” to “serve as guides at tourist areas”. These “cat-sized dolls”, explains the paper, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, “are big enough to be held with both hands”. The dollbots’ “shapes can be customised to match the characteristics of each location”, enthuses the manufacturer, “making them approachable even for people from overseas”.


The robots are not yet taking part in the Olympic events proper, but automated technologies are disrupting the labour market apace. At the website for American radio network NPR, a tool allows you to find out “will your job be done by a machine”? Drawing on data collected for an Oxford University study on employment and computerisation, the site estimates – or guesstimates, really – how long you’ve got till the robots turn up.

A mental health and substance-abuse social worker has the lowest chance of being automated, at 0.3%, having “ranked high in cleverness, negotiation and helping others”. Most at risk are telemarketers. “No surprise; it’s already happening.” Librarians are given 64.9% chance of being automated, school teachers just 0.8% and writers 3.8%. Athletes and sportsmen have a 28.3% chance of being replaced by machines.


Should you find yourself unemployed, you’ll be needing a curriculum vitae, and the first challenge is to choose a font. Helpfully, Natalie Kitroeff of Bloomberg Business has consulted a bunch of “typography wonks” to determine “which typefaces make a CV look classiest”. The clear winner: Helvetica. The sans-serif modern classic “feels professional, light-hearted, honest”, is the advice. But: “Don’t use a cheap imitator.”

What about the ageless Times New Roman? A splendid font, the experts agree, but given it’s a default system font, it may send the wrong message. “It’s telegraphing that you didn’t put any thought into the typeface you selected,” says one design expert. “It’s like putting on sweatpants.” Comic Sans and its kin are obvious no-nos, “unless you’re applying to clown college”. And the thought of using emojis to brighten up the resume is given short, tongue-in-cheek, shrift. “It’s a great idea. Put a lot of emojis on the bottom. Some chicken wings. They will love it.”


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