College in Japan holds virtual graduation with avatar robots amid pandemic

Lockdown orders, stay-at-home measures, and social distancing guidelines have made it effectively impossible for colleges to hold standard commencement ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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One university in Japan, though, held a graduation event by using robotic avatars instead of students. On March 28, the Business Breakthrough University (BBT) placed digital tablets in front of apparatuses that were dressed in standard graduation gear. 

The way it worked was that a moderator would call out graduates’ names. Then, students would use an online communication avatar called newme, enabling their faces to appear on the tablets as they received their diplomas from the school’s president in real-time.

According to Storyful, four graduates used their newme from home while other members of the class used Zoom to watch the ceremony, held at the Hotel Grand Palace in Tokyo.

The school’s graduation is certainly a unique method of allowing students to participate in some version of a commencement. In the United States, many colleges have opted for virtual ceremonies, while others have chosen to postpone their graduation events. 

If and how a school is able to hold a commencement ceremony depends on their larger city and state health rules and guidelines, as there has not yet been a federal lockdown or stay-at-home order issued by President Donald Trump. 

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This story was reported from Los Angeles.