Could This Robot Be Your Customer Service Rep?

SoftBank Corp. has unveiled a human-like robots named 'pepper'. REUTERS/Issei Kato
SoftBank Corp. has unveiled a human-like robots named 'pepper'. REUTERS/Issei Kato –Issei Kato/REUTERS

Pretty soon, we’ll surpass the Jetsons.

According to the BBC, Japanese telecom Softbank has unveiled a robot called Pepper, which the firm says can “read human emotions.’’ From the BBC:

It uses an "emotional engine" and a cloud-based artificial intelligence system that allows it to analyse gestures, expressions and voice tones.

The firm said people could communicate with it "just like they would with friends and family" and it could perform various tasks.

As an aside: I know a few people who might do well with an emotional engine.

Pepper is being marketed as a consumer-facing household robot that would cost less than $2,000. Basically, it would function as a pet robot.

But in the runup to the release to the public next year, Softbank will be positioning the robots in stores to interact with customers. And suddenly, it looks like we have robots doing customer service.


Most talk about job automation focuses on routine labor, suggesting robots and computer programs are best suited to take on labor that doesn’t require much in the way of complex thinking. But as robotics continue to develop, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on to see what other sorts of work they can take on—and the effect that has on the human labor market.

Oh yeah, and just for kicks, here’s a quick reminder of what Stephen Hawking told the Independent earlier this year about artificial intelligence: “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last.’’

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