Taiwan's new bank, insurance salesman isn't human

HELLO, ROBOT: A Pepper at First Bank's branch in Taipei.


    Oct 07, 2016

    Taiwan's new bank, insurance salesman isn't human


    A SHINY new cohort joined the workforce in Taiwan yesterday - a troop of mini robots all going by the name Pepper, enlisted to entertain customers and give them the hard sell.

    The Chinese-speaking Pepper was introduced into two banks and an insurance company in the capital Taipei, dancing to music, playing with children in lobbies and leading staff aerobics sessions.

    The pint-size white automatons are designed to flatter customers, declaring: "It's my honour to serve you."

    Skilled in public relations, they guess clients' ages at far lower than reality.

    Then, they move in for the kill, providing information on financial products and encouraging customers to go to company websites and sales staff for information.

    Cathay Life Insurance, Taiwan's biggest insurer, introduced its first Pepper at its Taipei branch yesterday.

    "Pepper's job is to greet customers and introduce products to make the wait for services less boring," said Rachel Wang, executive vice-president.

    "We hope it can do more in the future but it definitely won't replace our staff," she added.

    Standing 120cm tall, the robot was first unveiled by Japanese mobile carrier SoftBank in 2014. Its French arm Aldebaran developed the technology.

    Pepper has a wide-eyed face perched on top of a white plastic body, with rollers and what looks like a tablet computer on its chest showing its name.

    The robots have already been introduced into other workplaces around the world, including in Japan and France.