Smart technology is about to revolutionize the way we shop—and not just online. Two Bay Area malls, Westfield’s San Francisco Centre and Valley Fair mall, recently introduced customer service robots, whose main job is to survey shoppers about their experiences.
The robots, nicknamed Pepper, are a project by Japanese technology corporation SoftBank. And though their primary focus is collecting data via customer surveys, they have several more tricks up their (plastic) sleeves.
Pepper can also dance, take selfies with patrons, play games, and provide foreign language instruction (in case you’re the type that likes a side of education with your holiday shopping). It’s even being programmed to serve as an interactive mall directory, providing customers with directions to their favorite stores.
If the Bay Area Peppers prove successful, Shawn Pauli, Senior Vice President for the Westfield Property Group, says his company plans to bring Peppers to their World Trade Center and Paramus, New Jersey, shopping centers. (First introduced in 2014, Pepper is already a fixture at several retail stores and hotels in Japan.)
Steve Carlin, the general manager for SoftBank Robotics America, sees Pepper as a “unique way” of keeping customers informed and entertained as they navigate their local malls. As he told SFGate, “It’s approachable, not intimidating, with a humanoid face but not too human, engaging, but not off-putting.”