SoftBank Plans To Open A Store Staffed (Almost) Entirely By Pepper, Its Humanoid Robot

SoftBank announced today that it will launch an app store to create a software ecosystem for Pepper, its humanoid robot. Perhaps more intriguingly, the company, one of Japan’s largest telecom and Internet firms, also revealed plans for a phone store staffed mainly by Peppers.

The Japan Times reports that the store will be open from March 28 to April 3 in Tokyo and be run by five to six Peppers. The robot fleet will greet shoppers, demonstrate cellphones, and help them make purchases. Unfortunately for people who want to enjoy the novelty of completely robotic staff, human staffers will also be present in order to check customers’ IDs before they sign a phone contract.

The enterprise version of Pepper launched last fall and is currently used by 500 companies in Japan, including Nestle and Mizuho Bank.

About 200 firms will develop software for the company’s “RobotApp Market for Biz,” which is set to launch on Feb. 22 to let clients download apps directly to their Peppers. Four retail locations, called “Pepper for Biz Atelier” will also open next week in Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi, and Fukuoka to let business customers meet the robot.

Created by Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, which SoftBank acquired in 2012, Pepper is designed to recognize emotions in human voices and body movements and respond accordingly. Enterprise clients sign a three-year contract and pay 55,000 yen (about $465) to rent each unit.