Cutting edge robot who can ‘read emotions’ keeps getting fired from jobs

Daily Star readers who are concerned that robots might soon take their jobs can rest easy for now.

Humanoid robot Pepper, made by Japanese company SoftBank Group Corp., has been sacked from at least half a dozen jobs.

Production of the artifically-intelligent robot, introduced in 2014, "paused for a while" last month due to low demand.

The company announced that it would only start making the robot again "when it is needed", it said. According to Reuters, only 27,000 units were ever made.

Scottish grocery chain Margiotta installed a Pepper in their flagship Edinburgh store, but it turned out to be not very helpful, advising customers to look "in the alcohol section" when they asked where things were.

"We thought a robot was a great addition to show the customers that we are always wanting to do something new and exciting," Elena Margiotta said, but it didn't work out that way. The robot lasted a few months before getting the sack.

Pepper wasn't without its fans though – one staff member reportedly cried when they had to pack the robot back in its box.

Funeral company Nissei Eco Co bought one of the £1,500 robots to read out appropriate scriptures during services. Unfortunately, Pepper repeatedly failed to perform during practice runs.

"What if it refused to operate in the middle of a ceremony?" manager Osamu Funaki said to the Washington Post.

"It would be such a disaster."

A Japanese nursing-home company also purchased three Pepper androids, hoping they would keep residents company and lead group sing-songs.

At first, the nursing home residents were delighted to meet their new robotic carer, but the novelty soon wore off. Masataka Iida, an executive at the homes’ parent company Ittokai, said that the robot also took "unplanned breaks" at work.

After three years, Pepper got the push.

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The SoftBank Hawks, a professional baseball team belonging to Pepper’s manufacturers, took delivery of 100 robot cheerleaders to entertain crowds during their games.

But the sight of the massed androids wasn’t as much fun for supporters as expected.

"It reminded me of a military parade in North Korea or China," baseball fan Hirofumi Miyato said.

He added that "it felt creepy".

Softbank spokeswoman Ai Kitamura said Pepper is still doing good work in schools and hospitals

Robotics expert Prof Noel Sharkey told the BBC he would be happy to see the back of Pepper.

"Pepper did a lot to harm genuine robotics research by giving an often false impression of a bright cognitive being that could hold conversations," he said.

"It was mostly remote-controlled with a human conversing through its speakers.

"Deceiving the public in this way is dangerous and gives the wrong impression of the capabilities of AI in the real world."

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