As gatherings exacerbate the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the world, in-person graduation ceremonies have become a problem this year. Although momentous occasions for students and their families, they are impossible to conduct in the traditional sense without violating social distancing rules. One Japanese school, however, was not deterred so easily, and used avatar robots to allow students to attend the ceremony from home.

At the graduation ceremony for Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo, four robots were dressed in graduation caps and gowns to add to the sense of ceremony. Tablets were used for the robots’ faces, displaying the actual graduates streaming from home. Graduates were also able to control the robots via their laptops. Robots moved to the podium one by one to receive their diplomas, as school staff clapped and congratulated the new graduates.

Although there were only four avatar robots to receive their diplomas, they did so on behalf of all the graduating students unable to be there. The rest of the students graduating watched the ceremony via Zoom.

While receiving his master’s degree, Kazuki Tamura, one of the graduates, said, “I think this is truly a novel experience to receive a certificate in a public area while I am in a private space.”

The university is hoping the innovative commencement strategy is adopted by other schools as well, as they seek creative solutions to safely navigate through graduation season.