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She has life-like skin. She can speak Japanese and Chinese. She can't answer any questions.

Sounds like a few of my former students but in this case we are talking about a robot who is waiting to greet me when I walk into Tokyo's Mitsukoshi department store the next time I go there, which will be never.

The concept of having a greeter at a department store is not new in Japan. But they are able to pull it off here with a bit more style, grace and dignity than the blue-vested specimens at Wal-Mart. When I do find myself walking into a department store in Japan - likely to use the bathroom - my knees go weak with the smiling, the bowing, the precise, sweet words of welcome from the girl standing by the entrance who seems genuinely delighted that I have come to use the bathroom.

I'll then head for the elevator for more of the same from another sweet, demure Japanese girl whose job it is to make me feel safe and comfortable as she puts a practiced, protective hand in front of the not-yet-closed elevator doors, totally pushing my buttons. Plus she will answer me when I ask her where the bathroom is.

When there is no designated greeter at the door (which is the exception rather than the rule in most commercial establishments in Japan, from pubs to banks to convenience stores) everyone in the entire place will shout out a greeting when you walk in, filling the air with a chorus of "Irrashaimase!" It's magical. I love it. And all just for using the ATM. Or the bathroom. And while it's out of an ingrained sense of duty more than anything else, still it is very enchanting. It is warm. It is human.

Mitsukoshi's Aiko Chihira, however, is not human. She's a machine that can "move in several ways". Meanwhile there is no shortage of sweet, demure Japanese girls willing to stand by an entrance or in an elevator and push my buttons in several ways. So really, I don't get it.
"I've believed that the most important role of robots will be as kind and emotional companions to enhance our daily lives," says Bruno Maisonnier, founder and chief executive of Aldebaran (Robotics)and, I assume, an extremely unpopular kid when he was in school. "To bring happiness, constantly surprise us and make people grow."

Make people grow? Through an encounter with a human-ish machine that can't even tell us where the bathroom is?

Thanks but no thanks. I'll take a sweet, demure Japanese human instead.

Even if she doesn't know where the bathroom is. Just keep pushing those buttons, honey. 
 


Comments

09/13/2015 12:24am

Well! I guess you had a really great time in Tokyo with this female robot. Which is programmed to give answers in Japanese and Chinese as well. It's a fabulous idea of a greeting robot and using robots for helping in direction. I really enjoyed your blog.

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11/29/2016 12:08pm

I have been afraid of robots when I was a kid. I remember watching a scary movie when I was very young. It was about a robot who lost control and started killing people. That movie was too violent for my age so I carried that fear with me until today. I saw this female robot on this site and it kind of looked calm. So I guess I am starting to loosen up my fear a little.

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01/23/2016 11:40pm

Well I guess you read as well as you write. Wait, you're a robot too, aren't you!

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02/13/2016 12:24pm

I'm extremely pleased to discover this website. I wanted to thank you for your time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and I have you book-marked to look at new stuff in your website.

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Thanks for this valuable information. Great post.

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Robots are the next generation technology and the scientists and auto engineers are trying to making the perfect reboots with the artificial intelligence which will help to make their work easy and fast. That is wonderful video your share about the robot receptionist.

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05/21/2016 6:24pm

Wow, that's incredible. Future is here.

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09/03/2016 9:43pm

Another interesting fact about Atlas, is that as it stands, it is taller than the average human at 5’9″ in height and also weighs more than the average human at that height at around 180lbs.

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10/06/2016 6:53pm

I'll then set out toward the lift for business as usual from another sweet, shy Japanese young lady whose employment it is to make me feel sheltered and agreeable as she puts a honed, defensive hand before the not-yet-shut lift entryways, absolutely pushing my catches.

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03/01/2017 4:07pm

Robotic technology is a great invention in this living generation, our scientist is still working on it to make better robots, i think it's a great achievement from them.

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03/01/2017 10:54pm

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I love it so much. while it's out of an ingrained sense of extra duty more than anything else, still it is very enchanting. It is warm. I imagine that It is human.

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