ROBOT: Keikyu Railway has deployed a 1200 mm high humanoid robot attendant to greet passengers at Tokyo Haneda Airport station, while SNCF has deployed similar robots at three stations in the Pays-de-la-Loire region under a pilot programme running until March.

The robots are from the Pepper range developed by SoftBank Robotics and Aldebaran. Pepper is designed as a ‘social robot’ able to use a 3D camera to understand facial expressions, body language and speech to recognise and react to emotions.

According to Aldebaran, Pepper is intended as ‘an emotional robot’, rather than a functional one ‘with dishwasher or vacuum cleaner functionalities’, and ‘has been created to make people happy to interact’.

Keikyu Railway's robot can converse in Japanese and English, and is fitted with a screen which provides a welcome message and passenger information in Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish. It can also dance with passengers.

SNCF's trials began at Nort-sur-Erdre on December 9, followed by Les Sables d’Olonne and Saumur. Custom applications for the French trials were developed by a Lyon-based software company Hoomano designed to ‘empower the first interactions that consumers will have with a humanoid robot’, according to Aldebaran.