OXNARD, Calif. — When it comes to keeping citizens safe from COVID-19, the City of Oxnard drew a line in the sand, or in the case of a robot called Joey – a circle in the grass.
What You Need To Know
- Joey is a Turf Tank ONE line painting robot
- Joey can line an entire soccer field in under half an hour, which is five times faster than it previously took multiple staff members to complete
- The Oxnard Culture and Community Services Department bought Joey in June to help paint socially distant circles for outdoor fitness classes
- It costs $50,000 to purchase, but uses far less paint than humans
The Culture and Community Services Department bought the bot in June. The department had planned to purchase Joey prior to the pandemic, but like everyone else, found themselves having to pivot.
“We’ve actually been able to repurpose it for social distance circles that are 10 feet in diameter, and 12 feet apart,” Recreation Supervisor Jessy Tapia explained.
Carefully spaced shapes make it possible for the city to hold outdoor fitness classes through their Rec Outdoors program, all while meeting the county’s safety guidelines.
“You can do classes without the circles, but having it designated, it’s kind of like you have your own little pod so people feel that sense of safety,” said Tapia.
There are other safety measures in place, too. As they gather for a sunset Zumba class, participants have their temperature taken at the gate, and masks must be worn until they reach their spot.
“So once they arrive to their circle, they are allowed to take off their mask because they are six feet apart,” instructor Yarai Vargas explained.
That is where Joey’s impact can be seen. The circles don’t just let people take off their masks, they allow them to let down their guard. After being pent up and isolated, Vargas said it’s nice to relax a little.
“You’re outside enjoying some sun, you know,” Vargas said, “Interaction with other people, just with either dancing or simply showing a smile to one another.”
“It feels really good,” Sara Esparza said while catching her breath. “I am working from home currently so I don’t get out too much so this feels really good to be able to do that.”
Unlike Zumba dancers, Joey never breaks a sweat. The GPS enabled robot can line an entire soccer field in about half an hour, saving the city a lot of time. Lining the field previously took five staff members two and half hours to finish, according to Tapia.
In fact, Joey gets his name from one of those staff members who had been in charge of line painting at athletic fields. The robot took his name, but thankfully not his job. The human Joey is now reassigned to work in other parts of the program.
Tapia said the machine will also save the city money.
It costs $50,000 to purchase, but uses far less paint, and that he said, will save tens of thousands of dollars every year. Plus, with Joey’s help, the city was able to expand programming, now offering socially distanced Zumba and yoga classes at four different locations.
Sometimes Joey even leaves motivating messages to keep people moving.
Phrases like #oxnardtogether written in bold block letter on the grass are a friendly reminder from a machine that’s making its mark on the city.