Meet ‘Pepper’ and ‘Spot’: Dancing robots replace fans at Japanese baseball game

Robots 'Spot' and 'Pepper' cheered at the Hawks stadium in Japan on July 7. @HAWKS_official / Twitter

TOKYO (Reuters) – With their stadium devoid of fans due to coronavirus restrictions, Japanese baseball team Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks have come up with an imaginative replacement: dancing robots.

Before their most recent Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) game against the Rakuten Eagles on Tuesday, over 20 robots danced to the team’s fight song on a podium in the otherwise empty stand.

Two different robots, including SoftBank’s humanoid robot “Pepper” and others on four legs like a dog, “Spot,” stamped and shimmied in a choreographed dance that is usually performed by the Hawks’ fans before games in the 40,000 capacity Fukuoka Dome.

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Some of the robots wore Hawks caps and waved flags supporting the team.

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Fans on social media had mixed reactions.

“I think this is like a dystopia,” wrote one Twitter user.

Another called the performance “insanely beautiful.”

Boosted by the supportive robots, the Hawks won 4-3 as they look to defend their 2019 NPB title.

The NPB season began three months late on June 19 due to the coronavirus pandemic and currently no supporters are allowed to attend games.

However, from Friday, up to 5,000 fans will be allowed to attend professional baseball and soccer games in Japan due to an easing of restrictions.

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