Pepper robot in parlor

Dancing robot café opens in Tokyo

Image credit: Softbank Robotics

SoftBank Robotics has announced the launch of a café in Tokyo featuring a full complement of robot staff operating as waiters, entertainers and cleaners.

Pepper Parlor, based at the Tokyu Plaza Shibuya, offers an original menu designed by former New York chef Fumio Yonezawa, including sweet and savoury waffles made with five different types of dough. The café also houses a small shop selling food, accessories and apparel and – most notably – is staffed by robots.

10 Pepper robots work at the café, taking food and drink orders and interacting with customers, including taking photos with them.

pepper robots as receptionists

SoftBank Robotics

Image credit: SoftBank Robotics

The social Pepper robot has become SoftBank Robotics’ most recognisable creation, making appearances as a Parliamentary witness (giving pre-recorded statements); overseeing religious rituals, and ‘working’ in hospitals on reception desks and wards. It is also widely used as a tool in human-robot engagement and research.

The café also has a group of NAO humanoid robots, which were developed by SoftBank Robotics-owned Aldebaran Robotics. The robots will perform “delicate, precisely choreographed dances” and other performances at set times throughout the day.

Not all the robots staffing Pepper Parlor are customer-facing. After the café closes its doors, the premises are cleaned by Whiz: a fully autonomous floor- and carpet-cleaning robot. Whiz uses machine learning to improve its performance, collecting data about each clean to assess its own cleaning and become more efficient and effective.

In December 2017, it was reported that a restaurant in Chennai, India, was introducing feminine-looking robots to serve food to customers and clear away their dirty plates. Customer service at the restaurant (now known as 'Robot Theme Restaurant') is highly automated, leaving the robots with relatively straightforward, repetitive tasks. A number of restaurants in China, including a Wall-E themed restaurant in Hefei, also employ robot waiting staff.

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