Darty has drafted a humanoid robot called NAO into its sales team as it experiments with the next generation of customer service.
The robot is being used to demonstrate Darty’s connected ‘internet of things’ products including Philips’ Hue wireless lighting.
Human sales assistants do not need to fear for their livelihoods just yet because the current iteration of the robot needs three staff to operate it.
“It really moves like a human, what is less good is the voice”
Régis Schultz, Darty
So although the robot only costs €5,000 (£3,700), its operating costs means it is more expensive than a regular employee.
“It is very early days, we are trying to see how we can create a link between this robot and the consumer,” says Darty chief executive Régis Schultz. “It really moves like a human, what is less good is the voice, that is something we need to work on, the movement creates a link but the voice is difficult to understand and hear, it is not nice on your ear.”
Schultz believes the future of the robot lies in performing repetitive tasks that a human would find boring, such as acting as a greeter and directing them around the store.
The robot can understand basic words such as ‘tablet’ and then respond with a pre-recorded message, such as where in the store the tablets are located.
It is also capable of understanding and speaking different languages and has been used by Darty to communicate in Korean with visiting South Koreans.
NAO can connect with internet-connected devices such as smart TVs and provide customers with the unit’s specifications.
Darty has three of the robots in its stores and has also taken them on a tour of stores including Nice, Lille, Bordeaux, Brussels and Amsterdam.
Hoomano developed the software and Aldebaran Robotics built the hardware.