Pepper is a very popular robot, working as a concierge and sales assistant in retail environments all over the world. The 4-foot-tall humanoid android is able to detect and respond to humans’ emotional states, and will eventually be able to perform a variety of jobs that require interacting with the public. Its newest assignment: multiple Peppers will go to sea on Costa cruise ships.
The companies behind Pepper, Aldebaran Robotics and its parent company Softbank, propose using the robots everywhere from the hospitality industry to retail stores to individual homes as a companion, which the company is trying in Japan.
In addition to emotional intelligence, Pepper is also powered by IBM’s Watson, and can have different languages installed according to customer needs. The version heading to work on Costa cruise ships will have three languages pre-programmed, (English, German, and Italian) and won’t be in charge of typical repetitive robot tasks like delivering towels or mixing drinks.
Instead, it will serve as a robo-concierge like its cousin Connie at Hilton hotels, helping to answer customer questions and help the Carnival-owned cruise line understand what customers want as a form of “digital engagement.” If there are passengers who speak a language the robot isn’t familiar with, it can receive an upgrade.
If the company uses information collected from Pepper to make decisions about amenities or field complaints about the food, that raises privacy concerns: will users be told how their conversations with the adorable white plastic crew members could be used?