SoftBank Corp. announced today that one of its’ cellphone store in Tokyo will be staffed by its “Pepper” humanoid robots for a week straddling March and April this spring.
SoftBank is as curious as we are
While it would be truly unique if the store were to be staffed entirely with robots, that’s just not in the cards for the moment. The static talking machines that will staff the store will need some help from humans for the time being. The machines will be deployed to the store, or perhaps installed is better, from March 28 to April 3 in the city’s upscale Omotesando shopping district.
“I don’t know how this will turn out, but it should be a quite interesting experiment,” said SoftBank CEO Ken Miyauchi recently at the company’s exhibition called Pepper World.
SoftBank plans to have five or six Peppers at the store and is encouraging customers to do their best to have Pepper explain their cellphone options. This is where the humans come in, for those that opt to purchase a new phone they will be on hand to finish Pepper’s sale as the humonoid robots struggle to check the identification required from humans in Japan to purchase a new phone.
SoftBank’s Pepper has a cult following
Beyond the fact that hundreds of businesses, most notably Nissan, have bought a number of the machines, Pepper is a long ways from stealing your job. Firstly, you likely don’t live in Japan and more importantly it’s just not that smart yet.
At a little over four feet tall, 61 pounds and a price tag of $2,000, Peppers are still a novelty and Pepper has yet to get a Japanese sex pillow love affair name (to the best of my knowledge).
SoftBank built Pepper with publicity in mind and certainly doesn’t see the project making money any time soon. That said, its first production run sold out in no time flat and hopes that when it becomes a family member, you would be hard-pressed to use an alternative wireless carrier.
Fumihide Tomizawa, who heads SoftBank’s robot arm, SoftBank Robotics, said the Pepper business will not turn a profit this year or next.
(For the lovers of trivia, dakimakura is the name for “Japanese pillow love.”)