The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many schools and universities to temporarily close, impacting over 91% of the world’s student population (according to UNESCO). Many of these students have had to adjust to learning from home, by communicating with teachers and fellow students online. Additionally, most education institutions have had to cancel their graduation ceremonies. However, thanks to technology, students of Business Breakthrough (BBT) University found a way to let the show go on.
The Tokyo-based university hosted its graduation ceremony on March 28 at the Hotel Grand Palace, in Chiyoda. Since the graduating students couldn’t be there in person, some opted to join in via Zoom calls, but others decided to use remote-controlled robots to collect their diplomas. Developed by ANA Holdings, the “newme” robots were dressed in graduation robes, had “hands” to accept the diplomas, and each one even had a tablet positioned on its “face,” so the students could video call and appear as though they’re really there. “When I entered, I never thought I would operate my avatar and attend the graduation ceremony,” said one student. “Receiving a diploma in a public space while in a private space was a novel experience.”
Professor Shugo Yanaka, Dean of Global Business Administration at BBT University, who planned the “Avatar graduation ceremony,” hopes his idea will inspire other schools to create similar virtual graduations. “We are pleased to have a warm online graduation ceremony with the introduction of avatars as new corona[virus] measures are required,” he said in a statement. “We hope this initiative will be helpful to educational institutions who are struggling to hold graduation and entrance ceremonies.”