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Robot Helps Human Customers in Tokyo Bank

  • Deborah Block

FILE - Humanoid robots called Nao, developed by a French company, Aldebaran Robotics, dance along with models to mark the opening of a press conference of the Manufacturing Expo in Bangkok, June 19, 2012.

FILE - Humanoid robots called Nao, developed by a French company, Aldebaran Robotics, dance along with models to mark the opening of a press conference of the Manufacturing Expo in Bangkok, June 19, 2012.

A cute little robot named Nao is the latest entry into Japan's celebrity robot culture.

Manurfactured by Paris-based Aldebaran Electronics, Nao is only 58 centimeters tall but disconcertingly human in its gestures and disarmingly adorable with its childlike high-pitched voice.

Recently it has been working as a kind of concierge at a Tokyo bank. The red-and-white humanoid answers questions about bank services with prerecorded responses in Japanese, English and Chinese.

Customers gawk at the robot as it introduces itself, gestures, blinks its eyes, dances and even does tai chi.

Over the past year, Nao has been moved to several branches of the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, the largest bank in Japan. A senior bank official explained that the robot, now at a downtown location, can help with setting up an account and other administrative issues.

Recently, the device was showcased at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, where it gave passengers the latest exchange rates. One man asked Nao in Mandarin where an ATM was located, and the robot replied that he could exchange money at the bank’s airport branch.

Louis Lepreux from France thought the robot was sweet because of its diminutive size and round eyes that light up.

Passenger Helfried Brunner, a scientist at the Austrian Institute of Technology, found the robot to be “quite interesting” because “they are not that that common in Europe.”

But another traveler, Karin Krumphals, felt uncomfortable with the idea of interacting with the machine. “It’s a bit weird for me because I’m not used to talking to something which is not human,” she said.

Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics, and the bank plans to use the multilingual robot to help provide information to the influx of foreign customers who will be coming to the games.

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