Artificial intelligence at your service

With Jean-Claude Guyard,
Head of Capgemini Applied Innovation Exchange Lab at Suresnes

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Artificial intelligence at your service

“Hello and welcome! How are you? How can I help you?” This store greeter is extremely polite. He’s a robot, standing 1.2 meters tall, the result of a partnership between Capgemini and French startup Aldebaran. This first-ever robot store greeter in Europe may well represent the dawn of a new era for customer relations.

“Hello, my name is Pepper…”

He can identify an object, recognize people by their voices, and tell the difference between adults and children, women and men. He can locate the source of a sound and engage in conversation, experience joy and sadness, take photos and tell riddles. “He” is Pepper, a small humanoid robot. Since summer 2016, this little technological marvel has been perusing the aisles of Kiabi, Darty, Carrefour and SNCF-brand stores.  

With Pepper, we are at the dawn of a fourth industrial revolution based on highly sophisticated forms of artificial intelligence.” Jean-Claude Guyard

Just another robot? Like they already have in Japan? Not exactly. Designed by French startup Aldebaran, Pepper is the first robot able to express real emotions while communicating, from joy and sadness to disappointment and anger—an innovation Capgemini helped develop from the start.

Sensors that help Pepper navigate, talk and express emotions
Emotional innovation is the key to the future of robots. Pepper represents a major step in this direction.Jean-Caude Guyard

Seeking a technological breakthrough

The Capgemini Group is one of the first in its sector to help develop a robot with a concrete application. It all began in early 2016 with an encounter between the innovation and marketing directors of the Kiabi chain and the managers of Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange. “Our clients come to work with us on technological breakthroughs that can help them transform or withstand new forms of competition, such as the recent uberization trend,” says Jean-Claude Guyard, who runs the Exchange.

A technological breakthrough is exactly what Kiabi was looking for to drive traffic to its stores and develop a more modern, fun and relaxed image. Capgemini’s innovation teams first presented several connected objects and digital marketing tools to the brand managers. Then, they introduced Pepper; it was love at first sight.

3 km/h
Pepper’s maximum speed
1.2 meters
Pepper’s height

Robot eyes: windows into AI’s soul

This humanoid robot is likeable in every way: he’s fun, surprising, resourceful and, above all, brand new. In fact, he’s the very first robot ever seen in a store in Europe! To pull off this amazing feat, the teams at Capgemini France worked closely with Aldebaran to design the appropriate software. “A robot has three possible roles: greeting, conversation and data analysis. Kiabi initially prioritized the first two, so we focused on those,” explains Jean-Claude Guyard.

The results were astounding. Pepper’s truly original feature—expressing emotions—occurs through a wide range of eye colors: green when Pepper is listening, darker if he is sad, and bright when he is satisfied. He also expresses “feelings” through sounds and gestures. When Pepper recognizes a regular customer in the store, he expresses his “joy” by raising his arms. If he feels bored or neglected, he lets out a long sigh. If someone finally starts talking to him, he spontaneously turns towards the speaker and gives them a friendly look.

Motors that allow Pepper to get around and move his limbs

During the back-to-school season, Pepper strolled through the stores wearing a backpack and handing out pencils to delighted children. And this is just the beginning. “We now have about 20 robots in circulation. But soon there will be entire fleets to meet increasingly precise needs. There’s enormous potential. We are now working on new layers of intelligence so that Pepper can analyze complete data and perform complex operations. We want to see our baby grow up,” exclaims Guyard. Thanks to Capgemini, the little humanoid is already able to play chess. And watch out: he’s pretty good at it!

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