An interesting MasterCard experiment is going on now at some Pizza Hut restaurants in Asia, where life-size robots take orders and process payments, with the intent of letting more store associates perform more involved customer tasks. (If you’ll recall, that was the same argument made for early self-checkout systems.) But what makes this effort different is that these robots are designed to sense emotions and to react accordingly.
Beyond the obvious questions-such as “Is the world ready for empathetic creatures trying to sell you stuffed crust toasted s’mores cookie pizzas?”-there are the implications of emotion-detecting robots named Pepper. (“The name Pepper was chosen because it is a word that is easy to say and understand across many languages and cultures,” MasterCard said.) In this deployment, they are named Pepper. The company making these robots, SoftBank Robotics, has created a series of videos depicting their potential. The main video (in Japanese) is worth watching, but be prepared for some serious weirding-out, if my teen daughter will permit me to use that phrase.