SoftBank Robotics announced today that its Pepper robot will soon support integrations with chatbots to expand the different tasks that it can perform. Developers can take bots built with a number of different frameworks and integrate them with Pepper so users can have natural language conversations with the robot.
At first, the new integration will be put toward frontline customer service tasks, like greeting customers at a hotel or mall and answering their questions.
Because the conversation engine is the same as what developers would use for other channels, it should be easier for them to create integrations that run on a robot or through other messaging apps and web portals. The Pepper robot also gives users a physical avatar to ask questions of, rather than speaking to a kiosk or typing out queries.
The first deployment of Pepper’s chatbot integrations in the U.S. comes as part of Softbank’s work with Satisfi Labs, a company that produces AI-based systems for customer interaction. The robot is currently available in the Mall of America in Minnesota and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
Customers who are interested in deploying the robot for themselves will have to pay a pretty penny for it. Packages including the robot start at $25,000 and go up from there.
This news is part of a broader deployment of virtual assistants and bots at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Companies all over the world are working to integrate their products with natural language conversation capabilities, whether on their own or through integrations with virtual assistants like Cortana, Alexa, or Google Assistant.