Robot Shop Assistants
A shop in Tokyo, Takashimaya, is experimenting with a robot shop assistant which is capable of dealing with enquiries from shoppers. The robot’s name is Saya and she was created by staff at the Tokyo University of Science in 2004. Prior to this experiment in the retail sector the robot was used in a primary school. Saya can respond to shoppers’ enquiries in seven hundred ways, and will direct shoppers to the right department or floor, or even to the nearest toilet. Saya can also make ‘small talk’ with customers. It is interesting to note that Japanese shoppers are uncertain how to respond to Saya, resorting to their innate politeness, even bowing to Saya to say thank you when they have received directions. Alan Turing must be viewing this experiment with some interest.