The next time you walk into an ATB branch, you could be greeted by a four-feet tall dancing humanoid robot named Pepper.
The companion robot, created by Softbank Robotics America, is the first of its kind capable of recognizing human emotion, and this is Pepper's first foray into the Canadian market.
Beginning in May, Pepper will roll out in Calgary — first at the Chinook Centre ATB branch, followed by Eighth Avenue Place and then the Stephen Avenue Centre branch in July.
ATB aims to use the robot to draw more people into the bank and provide them with a fun and engaging experience that keeps them coming back, said Sandi Boga, senior manager of innovation.
Pepper's interactions will be fairly basic at first.
The three-wheeled robot will be able to dance, recommend products and services, pose for selfies and interact with people via a mounted touch screen tablet, or verbally in several different languages.
"As we're welcoming new Canadians, she can actually help them break through some of the early barriers they might have when they're setting up their first account in Canada, for example," Boga said.
But ATB has hinted that Pepper's functionality could eventually be expanded by connecting it to an artificially intelligent system. This would allow the robot to perform biometric authentication via the camera installed in its head, making it possible for Pepper to address customers by name and provide them with personalized banking recommendations based on their stored customer information.
Not to replace staff, says ATB
ATB Financial says it partnered with SoftBank Robotics America after customer research found many people carry a lack of trust and high levels of discomfort in dealing with the banking industry.
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"We found out that there's some people who don't really love banking, and don't love coming into banks," Boga said. "We want to bring happiness to people using banking,"
Boga said Pepper "certainly won't replace anyone's jobs."
The robot is meant to free up staff so they can engage on a more personal level with customers, said Bill Lott, global project manager with SBRA.
"Pepper is not designed to take away any jobs. In fact, she's best used to do repetitive, mundane tasks that humans may not want to do," he said.