Did you know: the world's first robot-staffed smartphone store is about to open in Japan

Apparently, late 80s science fiction movies got something right – that by year 2020, we'll have robot clerks taking jobs away from qualified human personnel. Uh oh, why can't we have all those other nice things instead, like teleports and such? Ah, well, here's hoping these will eventually come, too. Interim, check this out – Softbank, Japanese telecom and owner of US carrier Sprint, is about to open a smartphone store in Japan that's fully staffed with its Pepper robots. Described as a "little experiment", the store will have its customers attended to by the friendly humanoids, which will be able to assist them much like breathing, fleshy beings would – giving directions, helping with purchase advice, and cracking jokes on occasion.

The Pepper robots will be also able to sign up contracts and create data plans. There's even a hierarchy of sort, with robots performing the roles of managers, specialists, and "time killers" - we're not quite sure what those specimes will be up to, but we can sardonically presume they will try to sell you plans and accessories you don't really need right now.

You might be missing a bit of knowledge on Pepper, the very robot in charge of the occasion, so let us key you in on the important matters. Pepper was developed by french robotics company Aldebaran Robotics in partnership with Softbank. It's a humanoid robot whose main schtick isn't awkwardly climbing a set of stairs, but rather the ability to read human emotions. For this task, Pepper is equipped with four microphones, two HD cameras, and a depth sensor – along with some software wizardry for voice and facial recognition, of course!
The people-friendly robot is pretty popular in Japan and is already present in establishments such as Miziho bank branches and Nescafe outlets, acting as a sort of information kiosk and entertainer. Waiting in line is better when you have a funny robotic pal, right? That aside, there are some economical considerations to ponder. From an employer's perspective, a Pepper robot worker comes at a $1,670 one-time investment, followed by an optional $125 monthly service plan. Compare that to the expenses of handling workers' salary, and the long-term future for clerks appears bleak.

The Pepper robot store is about to open on March 28 and will remain operational for a limited time. We can't know for sure what Sprint aims to achieve with its "little experiment", but the outcome is going to be interesting for sure! If you happen to waltz in there by chance and you speak English, do tell us about your experience!

source: Engadget


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