Nissan Hires 100 Robots for its Dealers in Japan – “Pepper” Droid Greets Customers

By Steve & Tamami Laser

Nissan recently announced a wave of 100 new hires for its dealers in Japan to help greet customers, answer questions and entertain kids. In the Japanese tradition of “omotenashi” (customer service) the new recruits are well-trained and incredibly polite – yet not exactly human.

151217-02-10The robots are designed to put customers at ease when car shopping or returning to dealers for service. Who wouldn’t smile when greeted by a four-foot-tall droid that can read your emotions and play games with your kids?

Robots are big business in Japan where they can be seen working in stores, museums and hotels. They’ve been part of pop culture since the 1960s when Ultraman started battling monsters on TV. We encountered a “Giant Gundam” robot figure during a visit to Odaiba near Tokyo.

151217-02-12Pepper was introduced to the media during a press conference at the Chuo Branch of Kanazawa Nissan by Asako Hoshino, Marketing Director, Nissan Motor Corp.

As the story goes, research indicates that kids get bored pretty quickly in a car dealership. While many Nissan dealers already offer play areas and activities for kids, Pepper is expected to go a long way to making their visits more fun and memorable experiences.

Nissan and Yoshimoto Robotics Laboratory worked together to “train” the robots for their tasks. Yoshimoto developed a special app exclusively for Nissan. The droid has the ability to recognize people, explain features and technology of Nissan vehicles, and offer different types of games for kids.

151217-02-06While Pepper can communicate verbally, a large touch-screen mounted on its chest allows users to watch videos or interact as they would on a tablet device.

Nissan isn’t the first automaker to use robots. The most famous example is Honda’s work of engineering called Asimo. By purchasing an existing brand of robot and having custom programming installed, Nissan is able to speed the droids to the dealerships faster than developing a robot by itself.

Pepper is a product of Aldebaran, a French company now owned by the Japanese giant SoftBank. Pepper was unveiled in 2014 and billed as the “world’s first personal robot that reads emotions.” The droid can be seen around Japan in SoftBank stores and went on sale to the public last year.

News sources for this story include Nissan Motor Corp., Yoshimoto Robotics Laboratory, and Aldebaran Robotics. Photos from Nissan Motor Corp.

Story (commentary) © 2015