SoftBank is launching a week-long experimental run on a mobile phone store in Japan wherein the staff’s role will be filled in by its Pepper humanoid robots.
The trial run will begin on March 28 and end on April 3, with the location being set at the Omotesando shopping district.
“I don’t know how this will turn out, but it should be a quite interesting experiment,” said Ken Miyauchi, SoftBank CEO.
According to the company, the Pepper Phone Shop will be literally run by Pepper robots where they would be interacting directly with customers. Some of their expected roles include giving directions, sharing advice, providing guidance and even engaging in small talk.
The Pepper robots will also be assisting the customers in finalizing their data plans and signing contracts.
Built with cloud-based AI that allows it to recognize voices and to run apps, SoftBank’s Pepper robot is capable of imitating the body language of humans.
Designed as the first robot in the world to live with humans, Pepper also became the fastest-selling robot – it sold out within a minute of its public release.
The impressive record was achieved on June 20, 2015. Pepper was released to the public at 10 a.m., and 60 seconds later, the company’s first wave of Pepper robots – all 1,000 units – were sold out. Each robot reportedly cost 198,000 yen ($1,610).
Customers who are purchasing the robot can also choose to have an optional monthly service plan of 14,800 yen or $125.
While the plan of deploying these robots to a phone store is only experimental, there is really no way of telling whether robots can actually replace humans in terms of communicating effectively and showing human-like emotions. However, employing these robots can also be more cost effective, particularly for companies that have high concerns regarding the salary of their employees.
SoftBank also announced that it is opening its app store for “Pepper for Biz” on Feb. 22. Dubbed “RobotApp Market for Biz,” the store will allow Pepper for Biz customers to “choose and install robot apps that suit their companies’ usage needs.”
The company added that all of the registered robot apps on the store are “developed and accredited by RobotApp Partners and inspected for approval by SoftBank Robotics so customers can use them with peace of mind.”