Meet a Japanese Department Store’s New Robot Greeter

Ali Parr

It’s not uncommon to be greeted with a cheery “Konnichiwa!” upon entry to a business in Japan, but one store has a new employee who’s a little unusual: she’s a humanoid robot.

Dressed in a kimono and a smile, the lifelike automaton dubbed “Aiko Chihira” began welcoming shoppers to Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store on Monday. Developed by Toshiba, Chihira is the future of customer service– she is able to guide shoppers around and communicate through both spoken and sign language.

Although the robot is not currently able to respond to customer questions or complaints, Toshiba’s new business development division group manager, Hitoshi Tokuda, has high aspirations for Chihira, including programming her to speak additional languages. “It would be good if we can have her provide guidance, or recommend various things in Chinese,” Tokuda told Reuters. “That’s what I hope will happen.”