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Sprint's Japanese owner to open a phone store staffed by robots

As an experiment, Softbank plans to temporarily open a smartphone store staffed entirely by its Pepper robots in March this year.

Published onJanuary 27, 2016

Softbank Pepper Robots

You have probably all heard the theory that our jobs will eventually be replaced by robots, even us humble writers. But it looks like that time is nearing for mobile phone store employees, as Sprint’s Japanese owner, Softbank, has announced that it will soon be opening a shop staffed entirely by its Pepper robots, as a little experiment.

Apparently, Softbank’s robots will be able to do much of what you would expect when visiting a mobile phone store. They can give directions, advice and guidance about your potential purchases and will even offer up some small talk to keep you entertained. Importantly, customers will also be able to sign up to contracts and take out data plans directly with the Pepper robot. The robots also supposedly perform different roles within the store, including a store manager model and a “time killer” version, which can presumably up-sell you all those smartphone accessories and screen protectors that you don’t really want.

Softbank has been selling its Peppers to a number of companies and has repeatedly sold out of the 1,000 monthly units that it produces since their launch last June. They don’t come particularly cheap at a cost of 198,000 yen ($1,670) each plus an optional 14,800 yen ($125) monthly service plan, but that’s a lot more cost effective than a human salary.

Softbank will be revealing additional details about its latest robots at its “Pepper World” event this week. The Pepper robot store will open on March 28th and will only be running for a limited time, but it will offer us a glimpse into an eerie but all too probable future.

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