NEC has put its communication robot PaPeRo to work as a cashier that can provide verbal guidance on how to scan merchandise at the checkout counter.
The system was recently shown off at RetailTech Japan 2010. PaPeRo is a 15-inch-tall interactive robot that can talk, tell stories, and generally look cute. It doesn't have arms or other manipulators, so forget getting help with bagging. But combined with NEC's Twinpos E-Money Self-Checkout System, PaPeRo can look cute while taking your money.
As seen in the video here, the Twinpos is basically a bar code scanner and touch-panel screen. You scan your bottle of green tea, touch your e-money card or cell phone to the sensor, and you're done.
All the instructions you need are on the screen, so I can't see any real purpose for having PaPeRo on hand unless you're visually impaired. It has a cloying, childlike robot voice in both English and Japanese that's no doubt "kawaii" (cute), but I could see some shoppers being annoyed by it.
NEC has been trying to find a purpose for PaPeRo for more than a decade. I first saw it back in 2005 at Japan's Aichi World Expo, where it was amusing children in a day-care setting. Since then, it has tried its hand, so to speak, at smelling wine and compiling blog posts, even modeling for a plastic figurine earlier this year.
As of November 2009, you can rent a PaPeRo R500 if you're a researcher in Japan and want to commit to a three-year contract, but it's still not for sale. It's happy to take your yen, though.
(Via Plastic Pals)