Softbank software reprograms robot Pepper for customization
SoftBank Robotics America (SBRA) has released the first of several out-of-the box software solutions for Pepper, its humanoid robot, including a content management solution that will see one of its first deployments by C Spire, a wireless service provider that plans to use Pepper in its retail, marketing and customer services operations, according to a press release.
The suite is launching with Pepper Promoter, a content management solution for marketers that was developed in partnership with Solstice Consulting. Promoter and all products in SBRA's new software suite are designed with the non-technical user in mind and will let businesses customize Pepper without the need for expensive technical overhead, development or prowess.
SBRA is showcasing Pepper at this week’s Collision conference in New Orleans. Retailers will be able to start reserving Pepper units starting in July, with packages starting from $25,000.
Mississippi-based C Spire, which has more than 60 physical retail store locations in the Southeastern U.S., is ready to put a robot to work, and that shouldn't come as a surprise given its status as a wireless service provider and technology company. But, the aims that C Spire said its has for Pepper — to help improve consumer awareness, drive engagement and increase interest in company products, services and programs — sound an awful lot like the needs that most retailers could use Pepper to help fulfill.
Pepper has seen pretty limited deployment in the U.S. so far, so the little guy (or girl, it's up to you, according to SBRA) is still waiting for a high-profile retail moment here. From a pure retail sector point of view, C Spire's implementation will not be that moment. However, it will be interesting to see if retailers, particularly those that sell their own technology products, will be watching C Spire's usage of Pepper closely with the idea to try to on their own.
Pricing will perhaps keep some retailers on the fence for now, as $25,000 for a robot just isn't affordable (or justifiable) for some of them. Although in most cases, a retailer isn't going to buy and deploy armies of robots into all of its stores.
The Promoter solution could turn out to be the key to getting Pepper some new opportunities. The software can help retailers and marketers more easily customize how the robot interacts with customers to convey marketing campaign information, branding messages and details about loyalty programs, sales and special offers.
Such content can be loaded into the Promoter Web App so that it can then be communicated via Pepper. The robot also comes installed with predefined animations that can be used for even deeper engagement with customers, or to reward them for their time spent with Pepper and the brand. Promoter also has tools for measuring and analyzing campaign conversion and other metrics.
SBRA makes the argument that Pepper provides a bridges between online to offline channels because customer can enter their mobile phone numbers on Pepper's interface, enabling future communication text messaging and mobile app. With some additional info about specific customers, Pepper also can recommend products based on gender, age or even the customers' mood or emotional response.
We're still so early in the use of robots in retail that we're still getting a sense of how Pepper and her robot colleagues effectively interact with customers, and how much customers will want to interact with them. However, if we can move toward acceptance and wide enough usage of robots in stores, it is pretty clear Pepper can deliver a lot of relevant information in a concise manner, and can crunch some numbers on what its gets back from customers, too.