Chronic labor shortages have spurred Japanese retailers to use humanoid robots as sales personnel in retail stores. Nestlé has purchased 20 robotic “salespeople” to represent its line of Nescafé coffee machines in 20 home appliance stores, and it’s planning to use the robots nationwide in around 1,000 stores by the end of 2015. The robotic “staff” can chat with customers and aid them in selecting coffee makers to fit their needs. The line of robots, named Pepper, were invented by tech conglomerate SoftBank Corp., which was the first to “hire” the robots for its 70 mobile phone stores in Japan. The company unveiled the waist-high robots this summer and claims they can express human emotions, answer questions and understand 80 percent of human conversations.
“You just can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans.” —Isaac Asimov