Nov. 20 (UPI) -- Japan's SoftBank Group wants to harness the power of artificial intelligence for cleaner office spaces, and its latest robot could soon be taking over some aspects of janitorial labor in the world's third-largest economy.
The Whiz is capable of vacuuming 1,500 square meters of space in three hours, traveling on a path that a human worker need only teach it once, the Nikkei Asian Review reported Tuesday.
The robot, which runs on AI developed by U.S. firm Brain Corp. and stands 25 inches high, then manages the job on its own, according Japanese news services Kyodo and NHK.
While the AI is of U.S. origin, SoftBank Robotics developed the robot. The SoftBank subsidiary also developed Pepper, a popular talking robot. Customers are renewing their Pepper rental contracts, says Fumihide Tomizawa, chief executive of SoftBank Robotics,
The Whiz could play a vital role in Japan, where a significant labor shortage is being addressed with a new immigration plan.
In a country where mixed feelings prevail over the employment of foreigners, artificial intelligence like the Whiz could play an increasingly prominent role in filling a worker shortfall.
"The cleaning industry is suffering a labor shortage, and this matches the needs of the market and our technologies," said Tomizawa. "It's a favorite of SoftBank Group Chairman Masayoshi Son."
The Whiz is to be used in offices and restaurants, and interested customers can apply for contracts starting early 2019.
The robot will be available for a monthly rental fee of about $220.
Tomizawa said the robot could be used to clean in the early morning hours or in the middle of the night -- eliminating the need for human workers to work overnight shifts, according to reports.