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Humanoid robot helps with retail experience at airport

Lagardère Travel Retail’s latest staff member at Rome Fiumicino Airport may take some shoppers by surprise.

Aiming to bring some ‘retailtainment’ to the Aelia Duty Free next generation concept at Fiumicino airport, a humanoid service robot known as Romeo is welcoming passengers into the Terminal 3 store.

Romeo communicates with visitors in both English and Italian and entertains travellers with several animations aimed at collecting email addresses from customers.

A photo booth animation detects faces and takes photos with a built-in camera. Visitors can then apply their favorite filter to the photo and leave their email address to receive a souvenir picture.

Passengers can also play a travel-theme game called ‘Guess Town’ with the advanced AI robot. In it, they are invited to guess what European cities are represented by a series of shadows. Whether they win or not, travellers can leave their e-mail address in order to receive a €10 discount voucher for purchases of up to €130.

The retailer is also aiming to increase the visibility of perfume and cosmetics by placing the retail service robot at the front of the category. Romeo will also be used to promote in-store animations such as the replica of the famous Bocca della Verita and the Casa del Gusto fine food area.

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Demand for customer service robot increasing sharply

The customer service robot market will be worth US$88 million by 2022, according to a report Tractica released earlier this week. Annual shipments are expected to increase from 2,730 units in 2016 to nearly 4,800 in 2022. The robots will be humanoid and non-humanoid, and telepresence robots, chatbots, and stationary customer interactive systems excluded.

Nearly half of this artificial intelligent robotics for customer service will be deployed in the Asia Pacific Region, North America and Europe. According to the report, the business demand for this kind of intelligent robot is driven by the following factors: interactive marketing and re-branding strategies; the cost of human staff; customer service digitization and competition; robotics as a service for customer behavioral analytics; the shifting roles of human staff; initiatives to promote robots for the service industry, particularly in Japan and China.

The intelligent robots will be used in situations where customer interactions are standardized and repetitive — such as in banks, shopping malls, family entertainment centers, exhibitions and events, airports and stores, Tractica noted.

Japan’s Henn-na Hotel, for example, is fully staffed by robots, pointed out by Ray Wang, the principal analyst at Constellation Research.

A number of organizations already are using robots on a trial basis in the United States:

1, Mineta San Jose International Airport began using three customer service robots in 2016;

2, Lowe’s introduced an autonomous retail service robot in 11 of its stores throughout San Francisco in 2016, and retail service robots also are being deployed in its OSH stores;

3, Target ran a one-week test at one of its San Francisco stores, using robots to help stock shelves and take inventory; it is considering building a concept store staffed by customer service robots.

China’s EVA Air and Japan Airlines are using customer service robots, as are Alaska’s St. Mary’s Airport, Scotland’s Glasgow Airport and Japan’s Haneda Airport. China’s Sanbot service robot is for Shenzhen International Airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and Gongbei customs services. With instant access to a corporate database or Cloud service, robots will reduce the amount of time wasted when dealing with customer queries dramatically.

Robots can deal with standard questions, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research. However, “customers still look for humans for any real assistance with problems,” she told CRM Buyer. Though it cannot work independently without human support if customer really need further help, the intelligent robot is still loved by more and more people and the application markets are very large.

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Worry about robots’ threat is absolutely unnecessary

In the past few years, numerous media reports that the era of intelligent service robots has arrived. In fact, as early as 25 years ago, Chinese scientist and future scientist Professor Zhou Haizhong predicted in the “Opinions on the Robot,” with the progress of science and technology, especially the development of artificial intelligence and robot technology, the era of intelligent robot is coming, which will invigorate to the development of the manufacturing industry, and will provide new opportunities for the world economic development. Today, intelligent robots come out frequently and help with economic growth, verifying Professor Zhou’s prediction.

In the 21st century especially recent years, the tide of intelligent Service Robotics has been sweeping the world; various types of robots (including intelligent robot arms, intelligent humanoid robots, smart unmanned aerial vehicles, etc.) are paid attention to by the society. Because intelligent robots are of great use in the fields of manufacturing, construction, service, entertainment and medical, military, space and education, etc., experts even believe that their ownership and R & D level have become one of the standards of a national scientific and technological strength. Many developed countries, such as Japan, Germany, the United States and so on will consider the intelligent robots as a powerful promoter to their economic development. In recent couple years, Chinese intelligent robots are bursting out at a highest rapid.

However, the mixed feelings to the robots also come out among the people. Many people think that the birth of intelligent robots is a happy thing. For example, industrial robots can be flexible and efficient to improve production efficiency and product quality, and reduce production costs in many aspects; the robots can also set workers free from the monotonous physical labor, making them engage in more creative work; In addition, Intelligent robots can take on a lot of dangerous jobs, many occupational diseases, work injuries and therefore need, which cost a high price.

On the other side, ”Robotics as a Service”, the customized intelligent robot can help people with their hi-quality life: care robots for the elderly, robotics education in school, retail service robot, robot in the hotel; rescue robot in a variety of dangerous occasions to show their talents and complete the search and rescue mission. And even some people think that human and intelligent robots will join hand in hand for a better future.

But there are some people who worry that one day in the future, the smart robots may transcend human beings on the IQ, and even affect the employment, or even threaten human being’s life and property. As some science fiction films depict: intelligent robots take the positions of human in more and more areas, and stand on the opposite of human beings ultimately, from a helper into an enemy. Incidentally, American inventor and future scientist Dr. Ray kurzweil has predicted that robots would be smarter than humans in 2045.

In fact, the worry about robots’ threat is absolutely unnecessary. Intelligent robots are not omnipotent. In terms of IQ, the current smart robot “IQ” is equivalent to 4-year-old children’s IQ, and compared to normal adult, its “common sense” is far worse. It can be seen, Dr. Ray kurzweil’s evaluation on the intelligent robot’s “IQ” is too high and his prediction is difficult to come true. Japanese robot expert Dr. Shigeo Hirose has said: Even if intelligent robots with “common sense”, and can self-replication in the future, it is impossible to bring a wide range of unemployment, not even a threat to human beings.

Dr. Zhou Haizhong pointed out: the robots can go beyond the human beings in the work intensity, computing speed and memory function, but it’s impossible to transcend human in consciousness, reasoning, judgments and other aspects; In addition, the robot will be smarter and smarter to service human beings and benefit human beings with the principles of action.

Whether it’s a happy thing or worried one, the arrival of intelligent robots is the inevitable result of economic development and technological progress, but also an important symbol of a country to achieve modernization. The advantages of intelligent robots are much more than the disadvantages, thus we should embrace them with open arms.