For anyone who is low-key concerned that robots will soon take over the world and put us all out of jobs, Fabio the robot is here to calm your fears. As part of an experiment conducted by Heriot-Watt University for the BBC series Six Robots and Us, Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta tested out a robot assistant, who they named Fabio. He was fired within one week.
Fabio was programmed to greet customers and direct them to the hundreds of items in the flagship Edinburgh store. And while his initial “Hello, gorgeous,” high-fives, and jokes were well-received (jury’s still out on whether Fabio’s offers of hugs were welcomed with open arms), people soon realized he was not a particularly valuable addition to their shopping experience. Fabio had problems navigating the aisles and couldn’t always understand questions directed at him due to ambient background noise. And when he did provide answers on where to find items, he was relatively unhelpful by telling people beer was “in the alcohol section” or cheese was “in the fridges.” The robot was quickly demoted to an aisle offering shoppers pork samples, which he was also not apparently very good at: While human workers were able to give out samples to 12 customers every 15 minutes, Fabio was only able to convince two customers to try the free food.
“Unfortunately Fabio didn’t perform as well as we had hoped,” said Luisa Margiotta, one of the shop’s owners, adding that “people seemed to be actually avoiding him.” Makes your office horror stories seem a little less outrageous, doesn’t it?
In the end, Margiotta realized their shoppers enjoyed having conversations with the living, breathing staff, and Fabio was boxed up and sent back to Heriot-Watt, proving that some things really do need a human touch.
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(Photo via BBK UK)