Drone curbs overtime in Japan by blasting workers with music

It's hard to overwork when a robot is telling you to stop.

Japan has a culture that encourages overtime out of a sense of loyalty, and that's a serious problem. It not only cuts into family and social life, it leads to entirely avoidable deaths. Taisei (the company behind the main Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium) aims to fix that in an unusual way: having a drone nag you into going home. Its newly unveiled T-Frend is ostensibly a security drone that surveils the office with its camera, but its specialty is blasting workers with "Auld Lang Syne" (commonly used in Japan to indicate closing time) to force them out of the office. In theory, the music and the drone's own buzzing make it impossible to concentrate.

The drone is autonomous, and doesn't need GPS to find its position. It'll be available in Japan in April as a ¥50,000 ($443) per month service, which largely limits it to mid- and large-sized businesses that can easily justify the cost through improved worker health.

Whether or not T-Frend is effective remains to be seen -- we could see stubborn workers donning noise-cancelling headphones. However, it could contribute to a national effort to create more balanced lifestyles. And it might even be more effective than existing strategies. Right now, overseers at companies frequently find themselves working overtime as they urge staff to avoid those extra hours -- the drone might let everyone punch out on time.