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

japanese department store humanoid robot hkg101038092 994818baff2bdae5389081248a07848f nbcnews ux 1160 900
AFP-Getty
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.

Business

4 women innovators who are using tech to help others live better lives

Meet four women leaders who are not only at the forefront of technology today, but also using tech — from robotics and medicine to food and undergarments — to help others.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 teaser proclaims it's almost feeding time in Hawkins

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.