Our First Attempt Using a Humanoid Robot in Retail - Case of Eobuwie.pl Store, Gdańsk
By removing all shoes from the shelves, eObuwie.pl has done the opposite to what most shoe stores do. They have taken the success of their online eCommerce to the next level by opening innovative brick-and-mortar stores where customers can shop by browsing on tablets and waiting 3 minutes for a delivery of shoes to try on from the warehouse. Their latest store opening took place in Gdańsk on the last weekend of June, and this time Snowdog team was there with Pepper robot to make a first step towards implementing a humanoid robot in retail.
A team from Snowdog made up of two Android developers, the Product Manager, Marketing Manager, and Pepper joined eobuwie.pl at their Gdańsk store launch. Our role was to facilitate customer interactions with Pepper so that they run as smoothly as possible while observing the robot in a real retail setting. What better way to test Pepper, than in a real, non-simulated commercial environment? We reached an agreement that Pepper is such a unique technology, that it is virtually impossible to judge its capabilities in an office where we are working on it day-to-day.
“It is crucial to have as many interactions as possible at the beginning. We are really learning about customer behaviors and it helps us to improve the shopping experience with Pepper” — says Ewelina, Android Developer at Snowdog.
We want to combine Pepper’s speaking and conversation with the content display on the tablet with the right balance. To achieve this we need to conduct a tremendous amount of testing to discover what responses people give to various situations, what reactions and unpredictable requests people might have. We are indeed learning a bit of psychology and linguistics to facilitate those conversations.
So how did we do that?
Our approach to Pepper in different situations has evolved as we learn from our experiences. For instance, we have-
1.Packed off from assisting Pepper so much and
2. Increased observation of the interactions, and helped them along by triggering a remote control.
We are still working on a solution for Pepper to detect when people are around and initiate a conversation, but currently, the only way to start an interaction is from the side of the human. By using the remote trigger, we could automatically make Pepper say “Hi!”, to observe how people became aware of him and interact with him when Pepper initiates the conversation.
It sounds like cheating, but our aim was to use the remote as an experiment. It allows us to avoid intervening in conversations with Pepper, (which disrupts and impacts the natural environment), it helps us pinpoint the exact moments in which people needed some input from the robot.
We observed that the entry threshold for interaction was high; despite our efforts to make it as simple as possible to chat with Pepper. Many people still find it hard to make the first move and start talking. The remote was a huge help in this regard; when we triggered Pepper to say “hello” while people were passing by, we saw a drastic increase in the number of people answering and starting a conversation.
The next step is working on human awareness functions so that Pepper can intelligently greet customers when he detects someone is looking at him. You can read more about how Pepper recognizes people.
And what about obstacles in Pepper’s environment?
We came to the store opening in Gdańsk with a mission to identify the best locations and conditions which would allow proper usage of the robot’s capabilities.
Initially, we placed Pepper in a cozy spot next to the “Reserve & Collect” tablets on the wall. It appeared to be an elegant spot due to the proximity of the checkout, but it was obstructing staff and customers from moving around comfortably. We additionally noticed a major issue: a speaker right above Pepper was playing loud music and interfering with Pepper’s listening communication.
We decided to try out a truck from Projekt Plaża and placed Pepper in there where music was muted and Pepper could rock. A huge improvement but not a great location since the most important spot is the one inside the actual store. Loud noises have the biggest impact on Pepper, so we moved back to the store and asked to lower the music volume and observed a much better performance as a result.
Just as the eobuwie.pl team has to teach customers how to experience the store and use the tablets, our role here was to teach people how to interact with Pepper. We have not quite reached a completely seamless experience, where people can approach Pepper with open arms and know exactly how to behave and what to say. With events like these, we are really focusing on pinpointing elements that require attention and improve as much as we can before we show up again to entertain you.
Article via eubowie.pl