Visitors to a Pizza Hut in Asia will soon be able to place an order, ask about nutritional info and pay for their meal without even speaking to a member of staff, or at least a human one. A robot that can interact with customers, like a glorified self-checkout, is to be piloted at the restaurant.
The robot in question is Softbank's Pepper, which is said to be able to recognize human emotions and to portray its own. In addition to being able to accommodate natural interaction, Pepper has an integrated display for which apps can be developed to help tailor the robot for specific purposes.
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For the Pizza Hut pilot, run by the firm's Asia arm, what is said to be the first commerce application developed for Pepper will be used. It uses MasterCard's MasterPass digital wallet and was created by one of the organization's Labs research and development teams. The app's aim is to extend Pepper's functionality so that it can serve customers.
Customers will be able to begin interacting with Pepper with a typical greeting. Those who use MasterPass will then be able to pair their account with the robot by tapping an icon in their smartphone app or by scanning a QR code on the robot's display. It will then be possible to place orders, get additional info about food and drink and make payments, all by way of spoken interaction.
Pizza Hut Asia's managing director Vipul Chawla says the robot will "make it easier for customers to engage, connect and transact" with the company, although it's hard to see how interacting with a robot will be any easier than dealing with a human member of staff. Nonetheless, it will add an element of fun to proceedings and the firm says it will be able to provide offers and personalized recommendations to customers using Pepper.
The app is being showcased at SoftBank's Pepper Partners Europe event in Paris from May 24 - 26. The pilot, meanwhile, will begin by the end of this year.
The video below provides a look at the app in use.