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This Japanese phone shop will only be staffed by robots

By Bryan Chan & Liu Hongzuo - on 27 Jan 2016, 11:20am

This Japanese phone shop will only be staffed by robots

The Japanese store is an experimental run, beginning in late March. Image credit: Mat Smith from Engadget

There's no denying that in the future, robots will be taking over a lot of our jobs. This has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is none other than Japan. SoftBank, a major Japanese telco, announced that they will staff a new mobile phone store with Pepper robots, and no one else.

The store will go live in Japan come March 28, 2016, and the robots in the experimental Pepper Phone Shop will oversee your entire phone shopping experience. According to Engadget, this includes the basic duties such as giving directions and advice, making small talk, and even signing a phone contract with the telco itself. If you’re into Isaac Asimov novels, this is precisely what automated nightmares are made of.

From left to right: phone contract approval Pepper, store manager Pepper, "time killer" Pepper, and three of the likely five million casualties come 2020. Image credit: Mat Smith from Engadget.

If you think Pepper the robot looks harmless, then the machines have already won half the battle for employment. Business Insider’s report has SoftBank saying that Pepper is “the world’s first personal robot that has its own emotions”, and it’s primarily used as a home companion or as a replacement for basic responsibilities in corporate, retail, and customer service. A total of 7,000 Pepper units were sold out by Christmas-time last year.

Pepper’s makers, SoftBank and IBM, announced that they are moving forward with making a Watson-powered version of Pepper during CES 2016. Watson is an IBM technology capable of “cognitive computing”; the robot will become a learning version of its peers. It will be able to analyze data by tapping into social media, video, images and text, make personal recommendations, or understand human language.

According to Forbes, SoftBank is the 62th largest company in the world, with their origins and main market in Japan. They were also one of the earlier official iPhone carriers for Japan, before rivals like NTT DoCoMo and KDDI Corp started retailing the Apple smartphone. Automating an entire mobile phone store isn’t just for novelty’s sake when a multinational telco is trying to make it happen.

Source: Engadget