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article imageRobot to sell Nestlé coffee and accessories in Japan (Video)

By Anne Sewell     Oct 29, 2014 in Technology
Tokyo - Nestlé, the Swiss-based company, has said that its unit in Japan will soon be hiring 1,000 emotion-reading robots as sales clerks at stores across the country. The first batch of robots, answering to the name Pepper, will start work by the end of 2014.
According to Miki Kano, spokeswoman for Nestlé Japan, Pepper will actively sell coffee capsules as well as home espresso machines at the big retail stores in Japan from December this year. She added that they are sure their customers will enjoy both the shopping, and also being entertained by the robots.
As can be seen from the video above Pepper has already been put to work successfully, chatting with clients at SoftBank Robotics outlets. Showing what a great marketing tool it is, Pepper delighted the managers, who have employed the robot to collect customer opinions.
The humanoid robot stands at 120-centimeters (four-feet) tall, and moves on rollers, with a tablet display on its chest, and was first brought to the public's attention in June this year by SoftBank CEO and Chairman Masayoshi Son. He billed Pepper as an "emotional" robot that understands "70 to 80 percent of spontaneous conversations." The robot is equipped with the latest in voice and emotion recognition technology, allowing it to read people's facial expressions and analyze the tone of people's voices to understand their emotional reactions.
In the video, after explaining that its "ears" are on the top of its head with four directional microphones, the robot can be seen to ask the people surrounding it to say its name. On hearing its name, Pepper then acknowledges the person who spoke to it, as it can tell which direction the sound came from.
When Nestlé Japan make the robots active in around 20 stores by December this year, their efforts will be centered on having Pepper engage with customers in a unique way, helping them connect with each other over coffee. If all goes well, they hope to offer the same service in 1,000 stores countrywide by the end of 2015.
The chatty little robot is set to go on the market generally for around $2,000 each from February 2015.
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