Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) club Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks has installed dancing robots at its stadium in an effort to provide extra entertainment during games staged amid COVID-19.
The venture started at a game against Rakuten Eagles yesterday (Tuesday) and is due to take in 16 games through to July 31. The initiative is being jointly organised between the Hawks, parent company SoftBank and US robotics firm Boston Dynamics.
Multiple versions of Japanese conglomerate SoftBank’s humanoid robot ‘Pepper’ and Boston Dynamics’ dog-like ‘Spot’ have been installed on a special stage at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome. The robots mimic a dance performed by Hawks fans to the team’s official song, while also performing other movements during key moments in the game.
— 福岡ソフトバンクホークス（公式） (@HAWKS_official) July 7, 2020
The 40,000-capacity PayPay Dome has seen games played out to empty stands since the NPB season started three months late on June 19. However, from Friday, Japan’s NPB and the J-League football competition are set to welcome a limited number of fans back into stadiums.
On June 22, the NPB and J-League proposed that fans should be allowed back into stadiums from July 10 and despite a recent rise in COVID-19 infections in Japan, these plans remain in place. It was proposed that match attendances would be capped at 5,000 or 50 per cent of the stadium’s capacity – whichever is smaller.