Japan robot receptionist welcomes shoppers

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She can smile, she can sing and this robot receptionist started in Tokyo on Monday never gets bored of welcoming customers to her upmarket shop.

“My name is ChihiraAico. How do you do?” she says in Japanese, blinking and nodding to customers in the foyer of Mitsukoshi, Japan’s oldest department store chain.

Clad in an elegant traditional kimono, ChihiraAico — a name that sounds similar to a regular Japanese woman’s name — breaks into a rosy-lipped smile as would-be shoppers approach.

Unlike her real-life counterparts — almost always young women — welcome customers to shops like this, ChihiraAico cannot answer questions, but simply runs through her pre-recorded spiel.

The android, with lifelike skin and almost (but quite) natural-looking movements, was developed by microwaves-to-power stations conglomerate Toshiba, and unveiled at a tech in Japan last year.

“We are aiming to develop a robot that can gradually do what a human does,” said Hitoshi Tokuda, specialist at Toshiba.
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“The standard of customer service in this Mitsukoshi flagship store is quality and this is a great to see what role our humanoid can play in this kind of .”

ChihiraAico will receive customers at the store until , before taking part in a series of promotional events over the upcoming Golden Week holidays.

The humanoid is the first robot to begin customer service in Japan — the wisecracking Pepper, a four-foot (120 centimetre) machine with a plastic body perched on rollers, flogs coffee machines and mobile phones.