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By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) – SoftBank’s robotics arm said on Monday it will bring a food service robot developed by California-based Bear Robotics to Japan as restaurants grapple with labour shortages and seek to ensure social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The robot named Servi, which has layers of trays and is equipped with 3D cameras and Lidar sensors for navigation, will launch in January, SoftBank Group Corp said.

Servi will cost 99,800 yen ($950) per month excluding tax on a three year plan.

The launch leverages SoftBank’s long experience in bringing overseas technology to Japan but reflects the shift away from CEO Masayoshi Son’s earlier focus on humanoid robots.

Servi has been tested by Japanese restaurant operators, including Seven & i Holdings at its Denny’s chain, as the sector grapples with an aging workforce and deepening labour shortages.

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