Meet Aiko Chihira, the robotic humanoid who’s greeting shoppers in Japan

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Just in case your shopping trips weren’t exciting enough, Tokyo’s Mitsukoshi department store is bringing a new touch to your retail experience. Meet Aiko Chihira, the humanoid robot that began greeting shoppers on Monday.

Dressed in a traditional Kimono and fashioned with fair skin and reddish died hair, Chihira blinks, give shoppers directions throughout the store, and makes short conversation based on pre-programmed scripts. Chihira moves her lips when she talks and has uncanny facial expressions powered by 43 motors, reports Reuters.

Aiko was developed by Toshiba in partnership with Osaka University Intelligent Robotics Laboratory. This humanoid robot isn’t something new, and it won’t be the last one we see either. However, it seems the hope for this robot is not so much function, but rather publicity. She can’t answer direct questions, and when the conversation goes off script, the limits of her robotic nature are revealed. Regardless, the humanoid is drawing in customers, but mainly because she will only be on display for a short window from April 20 to May 5.

The store marketing manager Gakudai Nanba said, “We hope the robot will spark conversation between people … I’m hoping this will become something that would spark a giggle or two.”

Speaking with Reuters, Hitoshi Tokuda, Toshiba’s business development division group manager said, “It would be good if we can have her provide guidance, or recommend various things in Chinese … We are aiming to develop a robot that can gradually do what a human does, the standard of customer service in this Mitsukoshi flagship store is top quality and this is a great opportunity to see what role our humanoid can play in this kind of environment.”

Aiko is not yet programmed to respond to customers requests, and it seems she is mostly song and dance, but not a lot of help. Nonetheless, customers seem pretty impressed with her so far.


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