By deploying the Pepper humanoid robot to help people with the paperwork and IBM's Watson-based artificial intelligence system to answer questions, the Japanese retail giant is looking to keep the counters open longer hours. The company aims to reassign freed-up staff for related tasks like promoting credit cards to people visiting the malls and bank branches.
Group subsidiary Aeon Financial Service is to quickly roll out 30 or more Pepper robots. Linked to tablet computers for entering personal information, the Pepper robot will be able to interact with three customers at a time, explaining the procedures for entering information, catching mistakes and helping to complete the process without any staff assistance. This will be the first use of Pepper in this context in Japan.
The Watson AI system will provide answers to some 700-800 simple questions related to credit cards, helping to keep the counters running smoothly and free of congestion. Aeon Financial plans to install 100 terminals linked with the AI system over the next three years.
As a first step, an automated credit card application counter will be opened at an Aeon Mall facility in the city of Chiba in mid-June.