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Pepper the customer-service robot makes its European debut at Paris expo

Standing at 120 cm (47 inches) tall, Pepper looks like a small child, and is designed to perform services and interact with humans.

PARIS: Pepper, a friendly service robot who can read people's emotions, was the star of this year's Innorobo robotics expo in Paris, following an announcement that the humanoid robot would hit European markets this year.

Standing at 120 cm (47 inches) tall, Pepper looks like a small child, and is designed to perform services and interact with humans.

The robot was developed by robotics company SoftBank and has already made waves in Japan, as an innovative new take on customer service.

In France, Pepper has been tested in various roles, including working at French supermarket Carrefour, helping travellers in train stations and on cruise ships.

"People are more and more curious, slowly but surely ... We've noticed the public really likes Pepper, there's a lot of interaction with her, much more than with an interactive drone for example," said Softbank Robotics Communications Director Aurore Chicot.


A woman interacts with "Pepper", a humanoid robot which delivers information to users of the French railway company SNCF at the Nort-sur-Erdre train station. (AFP Photo/Loic Venance)

Pepper uses visual and aural cues to assess the emotions of people it interacts with, as visitors of the Innorobo expo saw on a digital tablet displayed on the robot's front side.

Payments company MasterCard on Wednesday also announced a partnership with Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia to bring the humaoid to its restaurants by the end of 2016.

Visitors said they have accepted the pace at which robotics is advancing, and that it's gradual enough to not cause panic.

"The panic comes from the fact that we imagine fully developed robots today. But the problem is that robots will evolve at the same time as we do, so it will happen slowly. We don't realize anything now, we will evolve with them. There won't be this kind of break, where all of a sudden there are robots immersed in our day to day lives," said Yves Gellie, an artist who was visiting the expo.

Innorobo is an annual European expo dedicated to robotics and tech innovations.

More than 19 different countries were represented at the sixth instalment, with 200 exhibitors presenting novelties from toys to educational companions and medical apparatuses.