The scary reality of retail robots

  • PopPress
  • October 15, 2015
  • Elly Strang
The scary reality of retail robots

1. The startlingly human-like robot at Mitsukoshi department store

If you're afraid of robots disguised as humans, this robot named ChihiraAico is the stuff of nightmares. It is creepily human looking and can smile, sing and even mimic sign language.

However, a key giveaway of it being a robot is ChihiraAico can’t actually hold a two-way conversation and just runs her pre-recorded spiel as a receptionist.

“We are aiming to develop a robot that can gradually do what a human does,” Hitoshi Tokuda, the chief specialist at Toshiba, said of the robot.

“The standard of customer service in this Mitsukoshi flagship store is top quality and this is a great opportunity to see what role our humanoid can play in this kind of environment.”

2. The adorably cute robot named Pepper that’s selling Nestle coffee


Pepper, which is made by Softbank, is slightly more impressive than ChihiraAico in its capabilities, as it can chat with customers and even read their emotions. 

It's also endearingly cute, which helps take away the creep factor.

Pepper’s makers say it understands up to 80 percent of a conversation.

Nestle was one of the first companies to jump on board and use Pepper the robot in stores.

The coffee giant said it wants to “actualise a futuristic experience at stores” by using Pepper, so essentially it reckons robots are the future of retail.

Pepper can be bought for around $2000 and programmed to specific stores. It’s also due to launch in the US later this year.

3. The startlingly human-like robot at Mitsukoshi department store



 

A hardware store is perhaps the store that’s least expected to use a robot, but Lowe’s in the US decided to be the pioneer.

Since last year, it’s been trialling two Oshbots robot sales assistants.

The Oshbots aren’t the most engaging of robots (they can’t read emotions) and they don't resemble humans, but this is somewhat refreshing for the customer, as they don't look like undercover cyborgs that are going to take over the world.

They're also surprisingly useful, as they can scan items the customer holds up to it and locate them in the store.

Oshbots are also more talented than some humans in the way they can speak several languages.

If a customer wants support from a staff member more attentive than a white, emotionless robot, they can connect to human employees who can be of further assistance.

  • This story originally appeared on our sister publication The Register.

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