Wednesday 23 October 2019

Pepper shakes up student thinking about the future workplace

UCD students gather around Pepper the robot, which is preparing them for a future where humans and robots work together
UCD students gather around Pepper the robot, which is preparing them for a future where humans and robots work together

When Pepper the robot walks into a lecture in UCD, she is giving students of today a taste of the workplace of the future.

The humanoid robot, whose artificial intelligence allows her to read emotions and develop empathy, is the newest member of the team at UCD Innovation Academy, the first time she has been deployed in Irish education.

Since Pepper's arrival a few weeks ago, more than 200 undergraduate students who are participating in the university's Innovation for Change elective module, have been introduced to her.

Pepper is being used to engage students from all disciplines in the changing world of work. She can be programmed directly by the students and will help to prepare them for a future where cobotics - humans and robots working together with the robot taking on repetitive tasks - will be prevalent.

While new to UCD lecture halls, Pepper clones have been piloted in service industries around the world, including banks in Japan, a hotel in Italy and an airport in Germany, typically answering standard customers' questions.

At Munich Airport, 'Josie' Pepper was positioned at the top of a ramp, welcoming passengers and answering questions about shops, restaurants and flights. A hotel in Italy used 'Robby' Pepper on concierge duties.

Pepper cost about €20,000 and UCD Innovation Academy's Founding Director Professor, Suzi Jarvis, said "the democratisation of technology has arrived, with cost no longer being the limiting factor to technology adoption. We hope that by making leading edge technology readily available to our students, alongside developing their creative confidence and thirst for learning, we can equip them to live well in the world".

Prof Jarvis said staff at the academy had decided that their Pepper was a she.

Irish Independent

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