Americans are not terribly familiar with Pepper — the robot helper — today, but SoftBank is determined that it will soon conquer U.S. shores with its automated adorableness.
And, having had a test run with a few California-based retailers, SoftBank says Pepper is more than a pretty face — it also boosts the bottom line.
b8ta — a tech shop where Pepper interned for a week in August — reported a 70 percent increase in foot traffic, according to SoftBank. b8ta in Santa Monica saw a 13 percent jump in revenue and a six-fold jump in sales of featured products — both care of Pepper’s December visit.
And Pepper seems to have an effect on more than just tech fans. The Ave, a custom print apparel store on the USC campus, found that using Pepper as a greeter yielded out a three-fold revenue increase — and a foot traffic bump of 20 percent.
Pepper looks like a person, but apart from gesturing and rolling about, its range of physical tasks is limited. Pepper, however, is a great talker that has been programmed to chat, answer questions and give directions. It is described as a similar experience to working with Alexa — except that Pepper is a robot that also sings, dances, lights up and blushes.
Plus, if its creators are telling the truth, Pepper is programmed to “get” its users — meaning it responds to tone of voice and can detect human mood.
So far, according to SoftBank, there are 10,000 Pepper bots worldwide — both in professional contexts and living with families in Japan.