Watch out — your new co-worker may in fact be Pepper dressed up in your company's uniform.
SoftBanks’ friendly humanoid robot, Pepper, has been showing up in an increasing number of locations since its launch in June, 2015.
The amiable bot has been spotted toiling away in phone stores, hospitals, train stations, and airports around the world, helping visitors with basic questions, as well as entertaining them with its range of talents that include singing, dancing, and telling jokes. SoftBank says that so far 2,000 different companies are using Pepper in their daily operations.
Keen to highlight Pepper’s usefulness in the workplace, SoftBank launched a contest to design various uniforms for the 120-centimeter-tall robot, the results of which were recently presented at a special gathering in Tokyo.
A video of the unusual fashion event shows the talented wheel-based robot dressed as a childcare assistant, an airport concierge, a Japanese inn worker, a clerk, a nurse, and a construction worker.
The 100,000-yen (about $900) prize for the best entry went to Kirara Kashiwase, designer of the airport concierge outfit, while the Special Jury Prize went to Kiyomi Saito, creator of the nurse’s uniform.
SoftBank Robotics’ Hasumi Kazutaka said that at first she thought it was a “crazy” idea to dress up a robot, “but then I realized how important it is to distinguish between Peppers with identical faces.” SoftBank intends to hold the contest on a regular basis.
According to Nippon.com, several Japanese firms are already designing clothes for the robot. Bonuni in western Japan, for example, has been making work uniforms for Pepper robots stationed at Nissan and branches of Mizuho Bank.
There’s even a Pepper fan club that’s been producing designs pretty much since the robot made its debut two years ago, and also sells necklaces, earrings, hairpieces, and stickers that act as makeup. Yes, it is as bizarre as it sounds.
When the 198,000-yen (about $1,750) robot went on sale in Japan, the first batch sold out in just 60 seconds. SoftBank partnered with French robotics company Aldebaran SAS to develop Pepper, and has been working with tech manufacturing giant Foxconn to build it.
SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son suggested that alongside businesses, Pepper could also be employed as a friendly companion and entertainer in family homes, care homes, and other facilities.