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SoftBank upgrades humanoid robot Pepper

JIJI

SoftBank Group Corp. said it has upgraded the customer service capabilities of its Pepper humanoid robot, aiming to create demand in the business sector as Japan struggles with manpower shortages.

The upgraded Pepper can take orders in English and Chinese, a new feature mainly designed to attract the restaurant industry, which is expected to see more foreign customers thanks to an increase in visitors from abroad, SoftBank said Monday.

Customers can select a language on a screen located on Pepper’s chest. The robot can recommend the day’s special in the customer’s preferred language. Orders can be placed via Pepper’s chest screen, the company said.

The new Pepper supports advance payments by smartphone or smart cards, including East Japan Railway Co.’s Suica electronic money card.

The humanoid robot can remember customers’ faces and their orders using its facial recognition feature and recommend the same orders to the customers the next time.

SoftBank plans to start offering the new Pepper to restaurants and other businesses from January next year or later.