T-Mobile is the first operator in the Czech Republic to have exclusively introduced to its customers a robot in a fully localised version with the ability to speak the Czech language at a native level. The humanoid robot is named Pepper T-Dee and its task is to entertain customers at the T-Mobile shop, making their time spent there more fun and agreeable. The robot was previously unable to respond to voice input and customers had to communicate with it by means of a tablet on its chest. However, the robot is now able to fully engage in dialogue with visitors. Czech has thus become one of the 17 languages that the robot’s producer supports.
The robot will spend the next month at the operator’s shop at I. P. Pavlova in Prague. “T-Mobile has long presented itself as an innovative leader among the Czech operators, which includes not only pioneering products and services and original methods of presentation, but also, for example, the use of artificial intelligence and involvement of a humanoid robot in our team,” says Radek Janíček, Shop Back Office Manager at T-Mobile and now Pepper’s closest colleague, adding: “We have been testing Pepper T-Dee at the shop and the response from customers has only been positive so far. It is also a nice change of pace for our colleagues. We want to first test how far we can go in its involvement. Only then will we decide how many of the robots we will acquire in the future.”
Pepper in the world
There are currently more than 20,000 Pepper robots in more than 70 countries worldwide. Those robots’ services are used by more than 2,000 companies. Pepper robots are most often used in retail, namely in shopping centres, and in telecommunications, and they are also popular with car dealers. The top five sectors in which the robots are used also include the finance and hotel industries. The largest number of robots – 700 – are located in the Japanese restaurant chain Amazushi, where they not only seat visitors, but are also able to take orders. In Europe, the number-one company in terms of the largest number of Pepper robots in use is the French carmaker Renault with 100 units.
Pepper in the Czech Republic
Pepper T-Dee is a second-generation robot and there are only three units in the Czech Republic so far. Pepper’s hardware is manufactured in France by SoftBank Robotics, which has more than 13 years of experience with manufacturing these robots. Software support for the Czech market is provided by Adastra in cooperation with ProBoston. What makes Pepper T-Dee unique is its style of communication with customers: the robot available at T-Mobile is the first with which customers can communicate exclusively in Czech. It is able to start and carry on conversations on its own. There are currently 250 phrases programmed in the robot. Programming one phrase takes about two minutes. Pepper T-Dee is also able to distinguish faces and up to five basic human emotions, including sadness, anger, happiness and surprise, and it can also identify a neutral expression. Based on that, it will then adapt its communication: it can make people happy with a joke, play a game with them or take a picture with them.
A team of psychologists was also involved in designing the robot. The robot is about 130 centimetres tall and weighs nearly 30 kilograms to resemble an eight-year-old child in terms of its size and shape. The influence of Japanese Manga characters can be seen on its face. Thanks to its size, design and behaviour, the robot is easily acceptable by all generations and types of people.
Features and the necessary set of sensors
The robot is equipped with a set of sensors that help it to perceive its surroundings. The sensors include several cameras, depth sensors, lasers, an infrared sensor, sonar, gyroscope, several touch sensors, etc. Pepper T-Dee notices ambient noises, human faces and objects. It has two speakers and four microphones on its head, with two 2D-vision video cameras located in the area of its forehead and mouth. 3D sensors are located in its eyes, enabling it to scan objects in the X, Y and Z angles. There are three touch sensors in total: one on the head and two on the back of each hand. Any potential collision of the robot with a person or object is prevented by six lasers located on its lower part, which constantly scan the surrounding environment. In the background, the robot continuously evaluates its balance and surroundings. Therefore, its movements are utterly safe and do not require any special human attention. If a person comes too close to it or if there is a risk of a fall, the robot is able to adjust its reaction immediately. It is able to turn 360 degrees. With three wheels built into its legs, the robot can move with a speed of up to two kilometres per hour.
The robot’s battery has capacity of 8-12 hours. Pepper is fully autonomous and, if necessary, is able to connect to the recharging station on its own, sending information about itself to the staff, e.g., in the form of a text message. The robot remains fully functional also when recharging. It is equipped with a 795 Wh Li-Ion battery, which means that Pepper T-Dee cannot be transported by air as standard cargo. Lithium batteries are classified as dangerous products and their transportation by aircraft involves very lengthy security procedures.