Mira Robotics developed its "Ugo" robot to reinforce the shrinking workforce of greying Japan, but as the coronavirus threat persists, the Japanese startup is offering its machine as a tool to combat the outbreak, the company's CEO said.

"The coronavirus has created a need for robots because they can minimize direct people-to-people communication," Ken Matsui told Reuters at the Kawasaki workshop near Tokyo, where he works. "We had inquiries from overseas, from Singapore and France among others."

A hand attachment that uses ultra-violet light to kill viruses on door handles is the latest feature of the remote-controlled or so-called avatar robot.

An unprecedented decline in the population that shrinks Japan's workforce by more than half a million people a year and a reluctance to bring in foreign labor to fill vacant positions has spurred the development of robots in Japan.

The emergence of demand associated with coronavirus could further that work.

Mira Robotics' Ugo is a pair of height-adjustable robotic arms mounted on wheels, controlled remotely with a laptop and game controller through a wireless link. A range-measuring laser mounted at the base allows it to navigate, while a top panel shows eyes to give it a more welcoming look.

Learning how to use the robot takes about 30 minutes, with each operator able to operate as many as four robots, Matsui said. He added that Ugo, which costs about $1,000 (about Rs 75,500) a month to rent, can be deployed as a security guard, perform equipment inspections, and clean toilets, and other areas in office buildings.

Until now, Matsui's two-year-old startup has just one ugo working at a Tokyo office building.