Robots not quite ready for busy retail work

Robots not quite ready for busy retail work

We are regularly being told that the robots are coming for our jobs, but when it comes to dealing with humans they ain’t there quite yet.


Take the case of Fabio, a humanoid robot developed at Heriot-Watt University for Margiotta, a Scottish grocery chain.

Things started off ok with Fabio winning over customers with his welcoming “hello gorgeous” greeting.

Then it quickly went downhill. His responses to customer questions were unhelpful (“Where is the cheese?” was answered by “In the refrigerator”), the device couldn’t hear questions when the shop was noisey and finally it couldn’t even give away sausage samples to increasingly scared customers.

One week after being taken on, Fabio was fired.

Read how Fabio scared the Scottish customers

Not the same everywhere

Fabio might have had a far better start to his working career if he was Japanese.

In Japan the Pepper robot (which Fabio is) can be found in plenty of retail environments, reflecting how technologically advanced Japan’s service culture is. You can use them to do everything from ordering food at restaurants and buying morning coffee to selecting your preferred bathroom experience.

 Watch Pepper in action

The lines are getting blurred

In Las Vegas a computer conference early this year featured pole dancing robots, and researchers have found that we humans prefer robots with flaws and which make errors over perfect operating machines.  

They’re coming all right, but maybe they need to tweak a few aspects before all our jobs get automated away from us.



Find a course on robotics and potentially help fix Fabio

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