Robot fired after putting off customers at UK store

Representative image. Photograph:( Reuters )

PTI United Kingdom Jan 24, 2018, 11.31 AM (IST)

One of the first robotic assistants to be used by a UK store was fired after a week because it was found to put off customers.

Fabio was initially welcomed by staff when he began work at the upmarket Margiotta store in Edinburgh last week.

Developed by academics at Heriot-Watt University and filmed by BBC's 'Robots and Us', Fabio greeted shoppers with cheerful high fives and offered food samples.

Its software being connected to the internet meant it had access to an unlimited amount of information, which it used to respond to questions.

"An issue we had was the movement limitations of the robot. It was not able to move around the shop and direct customers to the items they were looking for," said Luisa Margiotta, the manager of the family-owned chain.

"Unfortunately, Fabio didn't perform as well as we had hoped. People seemed to be actually avoiding him," she noted.

Dr Oliver Lemon, Director of the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt University, was moved by the staff's reaction to his team's creation.

"One of the things we didn't expect was the people working in the shop became quite attached to it. When we had to pack it up and put it back in the box, one of them started crying because they had become emotionally attached to it," said Dr Lemon.

He said Fabio was a prototype and over the next two years his team will have a robot which will work efficiently in a shopping centre.

"It's going to help people find their way around. The same technology could be used for airports and even hospitals," he added.

However, his team insists that robots will never fully replace humans because there are some human judgements robots will never be able to make but they will replace some functions.