Robot customer services!


Do you remember little Nao the robot from when you first learned about programming & watched all those videos (violin playing, footballers, Thriller dancers etc) on Fronter? I believe he was first invented in 2006 and now he is being tested as a customer services “person” in a Japanese bank – he’s made it to reality!

Click on the picture to read the full article – here’s an excerpt:

Equipped with a camera on his forehead, Nao is programmed to speak 19 languages. He analyses customers’ emotions from their facial expressions and tone of voice, enabling him to greet customers and ask which services they need.

“Hello and welcome,” Nao said. “I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account, or overseas remittance. Which one would you like?”

Mitsubishi UFJ is one of several Japanese firms that are investing in “non-human resources” amid calls by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for the country to embark on a “robot revolution” to counter the country’s shrinking workforce and boost growth.

Nestle Japan has announced plans to employ Pepper, another Aldebaran-SoftBank “emotional” robot, to sell its coffee machines at up to 1,000 outlets by the end of this year.

The 120-centimetre-tall android already works as a shop assistant at SoftBank mobile phone outlets in Tokyo – a move its chief executive, Masayoshi Son,described as a “baby step on our dream to make a robot that can understand a person’s feelings, and then autonomously take action”.

Last month, the operator of Huis Ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki said its two-storey Henn na (strange) Hotel would be run almost entirely by robots, from its porters to room cleaners and front desk staff, when it opens this summer.

Guests at the futuristic hotel will be given the option of using facial recognition technology to open the door to their room instead of a key. About 10 human employees will work alongside their robotic colleagues.

After ironing out one or two minor glitches, Mitsubishi UFJ believes Nao will be able to handle even the trickiest of customers, and should be in full customer-service flow by the time Tokyo experiences an influx of overseas visitors during the 2020 Olympics.

Robots can supplement services by performing tasks that our human workers can’t, such as 24-hour banking and multilingual communication,” Takuma Nomoto, chief manager of information technology initiatives at the bank, said at the presentation, according to Bloomberg.

“Nao is cute and friendly, and I believe our customers will like it.”

Questions –

  • “Robots can supplement services by performing tasks that our human workers can’t”.  What sort of advantages do you think Robots have over humans? What wouldn’t they be able to do as efficiently?
  • Do you think it’s a good idea to replace humans with robots? Explain your answer! Why might it be a better solution in Japan than the UK?
  • “Guests at the futuristic hotel will be given the option of using facial recognition technology to open the door to their room instead of a key”. Good idea?


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About nic schofield

I’m a primary schools computing technician, interested in teaching children, their teachers & their parents, about IoT, computational thinking and implications of technology on their lives and encouraging children to think critically about technology to influence change in the world.

18 thoughts on “Robot customer services!

  1. The robots won’t be able to last forever because they have limited battery. Although if banks replace people with robots and there is a toddler they might get scared.


  2. we programmed them so we have their intelligence they dont have an advantage
    if they replace us who’s going to fix them?
    finally no key is good so it needs less energy! ¦¬]


  3. I think the advantages is that you will all-ways get an answer because some times you just get a recorded message and it is really annoying.It probably won’t be able sort out emergencies. It will be good in Japan because less people work so they need workers. Facial recognition could be good because if you lose your key you can get in.


  4. I don’t think that robots would understand feelings like humans do and wouldn’t be able to comfort other humans like people do.


    • I agree with you Isobel, but I wonder how long it will be before they can be programmed to have feelings like humans (but they won’t be warm and cuddly – or will they?)


    • Watch Big Hero 6! There’s a big, cuddly (REALLY CUDDLY AND WARM) robot. He’s called baymax


  5. I think nao is a great idea! I mainly like the idea of how it would replace bankers with epic robots! But, I do wonder as to why if a French university developed the robot, then why let the Japanese operate it?


    • Great question Ollie – maybe the Japanese are paying the French a lot of money to use it?


  6. If it is open to public, someone could use complex technology equipment to take an x-ray like image of the robot, and they can figure out how to reprogram it. Then they might change the wiring or programming. They would be well disguised, because of the amount of people taking pictures. Other than that, it is a clever robot.


  7. I think some of the advantages robots have over humans is the fact that they could have built in facial recognition Therefore they could remember who in the past has tried rob the bank before and make them go out of the bank.


    • Oooh, good point Caleb! what would they do when they recognised a previous criminal? They could also be programmed to recognise a database of know criminals from all over the world, not just one who had robbed that particular bank before?


  8. I think robots, with a sustainable charge, will be able to do non stop work whilst humans want breaks and sleep, as well as possibly become grumpy and useless. Robots can also not be bribed, so a robot in a bank would be fine. However, robots could be hacked or reprogrammed, and could be used for evil.
    On the other hand, if robots replace workers, people still need money, and with no jobs means no money. This is already happening with self-service machines in supermarkets. In Japan, people have a bit more money than people in the UK, so without a job would be slightly more easier. Also, in Japan their are more job opportunities than the UK because many huge companies are based in japan.
    Facial recognition used as a lock system is a brilliant alternative to a key or key-card as keys and cards can be stolen or duplicated.


  9. I don’t think robots have an advantage against humans as the were programmed by humans meaning they either have the same or lower brain power. Despite not being able to be persuaded told to do something different to their jobs they could run out of battery, unlike people. Unfortunately robots couldn’t play with you in the snow as they walk out side then immediately shut down. (Maybe Not)
    I think instead of completely replacing humans with robots you could get them to do human jobs such as washing up, chores or other easier jobs. In Japan robots might be needed as they are lots and lots of people and not enough doing certain jobs.
    If a robot uses facial recognition instead of a hotel key the person might go out for a make over and come back without being able to get in. They would need the manger’s assistants.


  10. i don’t think its a good idea to replace humans with robots because if there’s a bug in one of the robots or it gets hacked then anything could happen to us humans.


  11. I think one of the things robots can do better than humans is definitely customer service so customers don’t have to be greeted by some person who is fed up with working twelve hours in a reception everyday. However we need to spare these grumpy workers a salary so I don’t think it’s a good idea to replace them (until we get money without working). Anyway, nobody is better at telling what humans are feeling than humans because artificial emotions just won’t do it. But if there is a robot that does your homework I’m up for that!


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