Japanese bank plans to use robot employees in branch

By Nicole Miskelly | 4 February 2015

Japan’s biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ, is planning to introduce 58cm-tall humanoid robot’s called Nao to work in their Tokyo branches.

The robots have been developed by French company Aldebaran Robotics, which was acquired by SoftBank in 2012, and will begin work on a trial basis at a few branches of Mitsubishi UFJ bank in April and depending on their performance may be based at other branches.

Nao, which has been dubbed a robot with a human touch, can answer basic queries in 19 languages and has been programmed to analyse customers’ emotions from their facial expressions via their built-in cameras.

According to the Guardian, Mitsubishi UFJ is one of several Japanese firms that are investing in “non-human resources” after Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe called for the country to embark on a robot revolution to boost growth.

During a presentation in Tokyo this week, Nao lived up to expectations by providing faultless interaction with an English-speaking customer. “Hello and welcome, I can tell you about money exchange, ATMs, opening a bank account, or overseas remittance. Which one would you like?”

Bank chiefs hope that Nao will provide a unique insight into consumer habits and also perform tasks that human workers are unable to do. “Robots can supplement services by performing tasks that our human works can’t, such as 24-hour banking and multilingual communication,” said Takuma Nomoto, chief manager of information technology initiatives at Mitsubishi UFJ Bank.

Androids are already fixtures in Japanese nursing homes and hospitals, and have been used in schools and research institutes in the past, but the decision to use them in bank branches is a first for the financial industry.

Panasonic Corp has designed a robot with 24 fingers designed to wash people’s hair and a Japense hotel has also announced plans to open a new property run entirely by robots, with android front-desk staff, waiters and porters.

Nestle Japan has also announced plans to employ a similar Aldebaran-SoftBank emotional robot to sell its coffee machines at 1,000 outlets by the end of 2015. The 120-cm-tall “emotional” robot is currently working as a shop assistant at SoftBank mobile phone outlets in Tokyo which the bank’s chief executive, Masayoshi Son described as a “baby step on our dream to make a robot that can understand a person’s feelings, and then autonomously take action.”


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