A 58-cm-high robot started working at a store in a Brussels shopping mall on Friday. To begin with it is in charge of demonstrations, and “real” employees should not fear for their jobs. The blue and white humanoid robot skillfully succeeded in its first task: attracting customers.
“The robot playfully shows customers what the store’s products are capable of. It is then up to the sales assistant to find out the client’s specific requirements,” said Charles-Henri de Maleissye, general manager of the Vanden Borre retail chain, as, ultimately, this high-tech piece of equipment is “only” a demonstrator. The robot’s interactivity with customers is still limited. It can “see” if there are people in front of it and if they speak to it, and it can ask the customer what his/her favourite color is so it can then change the colour of the lamp it is demonstrating, for example. In the future it could also offer other products or for example give customers directions.
There are as yet no plans to sign a deal with Nao as “this is a trial run. Whether or not Nao can be relied on will depend on how it reacts and evolves,” according to Charles-Henri de Maleissye. Nao could appear on store shelves if it proves to be truly adapted to household chores.
“The robot offers a new way of helping sales staff,” added Xavier Basset from Hoomano, who developed the app for the demonstration. Nao, the robot, was developed by the French company Aldebaran and it can speak in French, Dutch and English. It has already been introduced in France and the Netherlands will meet it in a few days’ time.