Robots as sales assistants! Are you buying it?
We've already seen the digitising the point of sale with touch-screen technology at the tills and it's not uncommon for in-store staff to use tablets. But now the Japanese subsidiary of the Nestlé Group has announced it is 'recruiting' 1000 robots to demonstrate different products interactively with customers "in a natural language".
"Pepper Robots will be able to advise on the various items offered according to their needs and tastes," said Kohzoh Takaoka, CEO of Nestlé Japan.
They're known as 'Pepper Robots' not because they'll be serving the condiments at dinner but because the design Nestlé Japan have chosen is the famous Aldebaran Pepper robot. Aldebaran have already worked with SoftBank Mobile - one of the largest mobile operators in Japan - to deliver a robot that receives and entertains visitors to SoftBank's stores.
Does a robot create a new customer experience. At the moment, this is about the novelty of having a conversation with a humanoid robot more than actual user experience and probably won't be significantly boosting the traffic on the point of sale.
Given time this new type of advisor could prove genuinely useful. Pepper is reactive, just like its designer! This allows it to hold a real conversation in a natural language while simultaneously analyzing the expressions and tones of voice using an emotional recognition system. This gives the robot a greater ability to understand and react to the nuances of human interaction. The robots can also deliver visual content, with the help of an interactive touch pad they can screen a multimedia presentation!
To help speed up the development of all the functionality of his robot, Aldebaran has posted a software development kit (SDK) on its website to give developers worldwide the ability to create new robots apps.
Robots as alternative to real salespeople? Not yet! However, its unique image does seems to work when leading customers to the point of sale. Until these new androids arrive in your region's favourite stores you'll have two take a trip to Japan to experience them. And that would make it very expensive coffee!
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