The first Artificially intelligent(A.I) robot shop assistant in the UK was fired after only a week due to “incompetence,” suggesting that A.I has not reached a stage yet where it can be substituted for human labour.
The Pepper robot is a humanoid robot designed to be able to communicate with humans produced by a Japanese company, Softbank, and called Fabio. The robot was employed as a retail assistant at a Margiotta supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, based on an experiment run by Heriot-Watt University about Six Robots & Us for BBC.
“We thought a robot was a great addition to show the customers that we are always wanting to do something new and exciting.
Unfortunately, Fabio didn’t perform as well as we had hoped. People seemed to be actually avoiding him,” Elena Margiotta, who runs the family-owned company, said.
Fabio was not able to help customers, when asked for beer rather than telling them where to find the beer he would tell them beer could not be found.
Fabio was eventually demoted to a position of offering food samples to customers but was unable to perform here as communication issues arose.
“Conversations didn’t always go well. An issue we had was the movement limitations of the robot. It was not able to move around the shop and direct customers to the items they were looking for.” Margiotta said.
However, despite Fabio’s countless failures fellow employees grew to have a soft spot for the enterprising robot, which came as a shock to Softbank employees.
“One of the things we didn’t expect was the people working in the shop became quite attached to it.
“It was good in a way because we thought the opposite would happen and they would feel threatened by it because it was competing for their job.” said Dr. Oliver Lemon, director of the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt.