Robot re­cep­tion­ist ‘Chi­hi­raAico’ wel­comes Ja­panese shop­pers to store

The China Post - - LIFE -

She can smile, she can sing and this robot re­cep­tion­ist who started work in Tokyo on Mon­day never gets bored of wel­com­ing cus­tomers to her up­mar­ket shop.

“My name is Chi­hi­raAico. How do you do?” she says in Ja­panese, blink­ing and nod­ding to cus­tomers in the foyer of Mit­sukoshi, Ja­pan’s old­est depart­ment store chain.

Clad in an el­e­gant tra­di­tional ki­mono, Chi­hi­raAico — a name that sounds sim­i­lar to a regular Ja­panese woman’s name — breaks into a rosy-lipped smile as would-be shop­pers ap­proach.

Un­like her real-life coun­ter­parts — al­most al­ways young women — who wel­come cus­tomers to shops like this, Chi­hi­raAico can­not an­swer ques­tions, but sim­ply runs through her pre-recorded spiel.

The an­droid, with life­like skin and al­most (but not quite) nat­u­ral­look­ing move­ments, was de­vel­oped by mi­crowaves-to-power sta­tions con­glom­er­ate Toshiba, and un­veiled at a tech fair in Ja­pan last year.

“We are aim­ing to de­velop a robot that can grad­u­ally do what a hu­man does,” said Hi­toshi Tokuda, chief spe­cial­ist at Toshiba.

“The stan­dard of cus­tomer ser­vice in this Mit­sukoshi flag­ship store is top qual­ity and this is a great op­por­tu­nity to see what role our hu­manoid can play in this kind of en­vi­ron­ment.”

Chi­hi­raAico will


cus- tomers at the store un­til Tues­day, be­fore tak­ing part in a se­ries of pro­mo­tional events over the up­com­ing Golden Week hol­i­days.

The hu­manoid is not the first robot to begin cus­tomer ser­vice in Ja­pan — the wise­crack­ing Pep­per, a 120-cen­time­ter ma­chine with a plas­tic body perched on rollers, flogs cof­fee ma­chines and cell­phones.

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