Pint-Size Humanoid Helps Customers at Japanese Bank

2:50 pm JST Apr 14, 2015

Pint-Size Humanoid Helps Customers at Japanese Bank
By Atsuko Fukase

“Welcome. May I help you?” A humanoid robot greets customers at the headquarters of Japan’s largest lender, the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ.

The bank started providing information for customers via the robot on Monday, an innovation it says is a first among the world’s major financial institutions.

The robot, named Nao, can offer help on all the bank’s main services in Japanese at the branch and also assist customers in English and Chinese, the banking unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc said.

Nao was developed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French company owned by Japanese telecom and technology giant SoftBank Corp. Nao is less than 60 centimeters tall, costs around $8,000 and has so far mainly been used at schools and research institutes.

The robot can analyze facial expressions and behavior, and can operate in 19 languages, offering the bank plenty of scope to expand the language coverage of its information provision, should the robot service take off.

“We’ll consider whether to adopt the robot on a wide scale after assessing customer demand and any hurdles that might come up,” said Kazunobu Takahara, a spokesman at the bank.

Local rival Mizuho Bank also plans to use a robot to assist customers. Mizuho will use Pepper, Nao’s big brother, at several branches from July.

Pepper, roughly twice the size of Nao, was also developed by Aldebaran and can be seen at many of SoftBank’s stores in Tokyo.


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