Lifelike robots are stepping up to greet customers at the mall, hotel check-in desks, and many places never dreamed possible before, so I wasn’t at all surprised to meet Pepper the robot at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas.
Totally irresistible to the hordes of people who came into the Community Clubhouse to take selfies and dance with him, Pepper is much more than a pretty face as I discovered in my video interview interview with Sandra Moerch-Petersen, global innovation manager for SAP Next-Gen.
“Pepper is an empathetic, human-facing robot, making him ideal for the retail, accommodations, and healthcare industries,” said Moerch-Petersen. “We’ve incorporated a series of machine learning capabilities that make interacting with Pepper feel very natural.”
The latest generation of lifelike robotics works together with humans
This Robot Can Boogie
Paradoxically, it’s their lifelike appearance that makes robots so valuable to businesses, delighting customers with a fun experience while bringing businesses greater efficiencies.
“Robots have come a long way since scary-looking machines of the past,” said Moerch-Petersen. “Pepper is full of empathy, which makes him very welcoming to people, including children. Robots like this can greet people in stores, perform simple but important tasks people don’t enjoy doing, and make customers feel more comfortable. Pepper loves it when you stroke his head, and he’s always ready to dance.”
Advanced image recognition coding means Pepper can gauge someone’s mood, adjusting his response appropriately. Sensors in his fingers allow movement, potentially for medical use cases. Infused with data running on SAP Cloud Platform, Pepper is a treasure trove of actionable information for many service industries. For example, Moerch-Petersen said Pepper is in high demand from funeral homes in Japan to conduct services as an affordable alternative to more costly humans in that country.
What’s different about this latest generation of robotics is how they work together with humans. Companies are turning to robots that will be out in front providing support for basic transactions, moving to humans for the next level of expertise. We still need people, but they’ll perform fewer rote tasks and focus on what humans do best, which is relationship-building – or not.
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