Dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono and smiling at guests, Aiko Chihara just started a new job greeting shoppers at Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store. But she’s not a normal employee – she’s a humanoid robot.
Humanoid robot greets shoppers
The robot was developed by Toshiba last year, but made its public debut at the store on Monday in a new role interacting with customers.
Chihara speaks Japanese, has human-like features, and can also be programmed to speak in other languages such as Chinese.
“It would be good if we can have her provide guidance, or recommend various things in Chinese,” said Hitoshi Tokuda, Toshiba’s business development division group manager.
“… People can be looking around and think, ‘Oh if Aiko is around, she can speak Chinese’. That’s what I hope will happen.”
The robot apparently has a total of 43 motors which allow it to move fairly realistically, and it’s also programmed to cope with Japanese sign language.
At the unveiling on Monday, she accompanied opera singer Shoko Iwashita in a musical performance.
“I would like you to listen to the song that I’ve put a lot of effort into,” the robot said.
The robot then asked the crowd to applaud for Iwashita.
Unfortunately, Chihara cannot currently respond to customer complaints or questions, but she is not the only robot to have a job in a retail store. In 2014, Nestlé said it would use SoftBank’s humanoid robot, Pepper, to help sell coffee makers at stores across Japan.
We’re still quite some way from having attractive fembots like this one from the movie Ex Machina.
Is it just a matter of time before a robot army takes over the workforce? While it’s all good fun, there’s surely a good reason why these companies are developing humanoid robots…? Perhaps the best known example is Honda’s amazing Asimo robot, which, though not designed to be exactly a realistic humanoid, does have an incredible range of motion and walking skills.