Robots Aren’t Taking Over the World

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They’re just making it more enchanting

If you’ve tuned into the press recently, you are likely familiar with Pepper, the four-foot tall companion robot designed in Japan to bring you happiness. She—or he, or it, depending on who you ask—has created quite a splash in the media for her charming personality.

Our journey with Pepper has been an unexpected one thus far. We initially brought her onto the team expecting that she would be popular with Millennials, but the opposite has proven true; it’s the older and younger generations who love her. They’re happy with simple voice interaction and enchanted by her kindness and capability to recognize their facial expressions and answer questions. Millennials, on the other hand, expect more of Pepper—they want their sh*t figured out, and fast, but Pepper is no Siri. Yet.

Right now, Pepper is in robot infancy. Her software determines her capabilities and limitations. Which is why we’ve been testing, learning and continuously iterating Pepper’s software on a rinse/repeat cycle. Sometimes the cycle requires new software to actually be developed before a new version of Pepper is ready to hit the streets—or ATB carpets, as it were.

We’re exploring the possibility of being able to have more fluid conversations with Pepper, during which she could assess customer needs and make swift recommendations. Ideally, she’d remember customers from visit to visit in order to follow up with them. We’d also like to find out how we can employ biometrics to make the customer experience even more personalized and helpful.

She’s not going to take over the world (that would take some serious software), she’s not even going to steal jobs from humans, which seems to be a common fear. The fact of the matter is Pepper can’t replace the meaningful work humans do at ATB. What she can do is diminish “grunt” work and help develop more relationships with our customers. And with less grunt work, our team can focus on interesting and impactful work.

Pepper’s ideal workplace may not even be at ATB branches. The focus of our research is to gain understanding on where our customers see a robot fitting in and being helpful. Because our customers are at our branches, that’s where our research starts. We’re very much in the “minimum viable product” phase, and we’re working with a lot of, “if, if, if.” One of the most exciting parts of this journey is watching Pepper’s evolution, because she’s got endless potential.

Are you interested in working alongside Pepper in making banking work for Albertans? Check out open positions with the ATB transformation team here.

ProgressJosh Posty