Singapore

This robot can take the place of salesman

It can talk to customers, show them around, and help process payments

Designed as a sales assistant, this robot can talk, guide shoppers and even process credit card payments.

In a demonstration yesterday at Marina Mandarin Hotel, the XYZrobot greeted a prospective customer, told him there was a special promotion on 3D printers and took him to where the printers were supposed to be.

The robot was even able to moderate its pace to the walking speed of the shopper.

The XYZrobot was launched yesterday by Singapore consumer electronics retailer Newstead Technologies, ahead of the upcoming PC Show 2017.

These robots could help retailers save costs, said Mr Sky Chen, 36, general manager of retail and global distribution services at Newstead Technologies.

"This robot does not get sick or need to take leave. So if you calculate the costs of purchasing the robot verses hiring an employee, a shop could easily see how it is worth it."

It is understood to be the first retail robot in Asia that is able to receive payments by credit card.

Each robot can run for about eight hours on a four-hour charge. It can return to its charging point as needed.

The robot is manufactured by Taiwanese tech firm New Kinpo Group and its subsidiary XYZprinting.

New Kinpo Group chief executive officer Simon Shen, 51, said: "Fewer young people want to do jobs that pay less, such as in retail. So as our population ages, we must keep up with the manpower shortages."

The idea was conceived three years ago to help cope with manpower shortages and the company invested $5 million to develop it.

Mr Shen said robots can fill in the gaps for tasks that require less of a human touch.

But Professor Chen I-Ming of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering in Nanyang Technological University argues that humans are always needed in sectors such as retail.

"Sales is all about persuading people to buy things. You need to use hard-sell or soft-sell techniques based on the consumer. This is a communication skill that robots simply cannot do as of now."

The XYZ robot will be on display at the PC Show 2017, which will be at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre from Thursday to Sunday.

From August, it will be sold in Newstead's Suntec City store from $12,000.

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