A woman picks up products, scans them using a bar code reader attached to a special shopping basket, puts the basket in a designated spot, then takes out the merchandise after it is automatically bagged at a convenience store in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, on Dec 12. (Hikaru Uchida)

MORIGUCHI, Osaka Prefecture--If you comment on the weather to "Regi," who mans the cash register at the convenience store, you won't get a polite reply, smile or even a nod or shake of the head.

That's because Regi's full name is "Regirobo" and it is a robot.

Regirobo, invented by Panasonic Corp. and Lawson Inc., basically does everything apart from choosing the goods you want to buy.

It automatically calculates the bill and even bags the purchased goods.

Regirobo started to be given a test run from Dec. 12 at a Lawson store adjacent to Panasonic’s Osaka head office.

It will be introduced in some outlets of the franchised chain from the latter half of fiscal 2017, and used widely from fiscal 2018.

With Regirobo behind the counter, customers scan each item to a bar code reader attached to a special shopping basket before placing it inside.

At check out, they put the basket into a designated spot, and the total cost is displayed. Then the bottom of the basket slides out and underneath a plastic bag covers the goods.

Regirobo can deal with most products in a store except for magazines, umbrellas, “oden” (fish cakes and other ingredients stewed in a pot of fish broth) and some others.

A more advanced system will be introduced in February with electronic tags attached to each piece of merchandise. Customers will then not need to scan a product to the bar code reader as each item can be automatically registered.

In the future, the system will be combined with a smartphone payment app. Customers will then not even need to go through the ordeal of spending time "shopping" in the store. They can just pick up their prebagged products and head off.

This could be a boon for the convenience store industry as it has been finding it difficult to find staff.

"We have a sense of crisis that we will not be able to survive if we keep the current system,” said Lawson President Sadanobu Takemasu.