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This article was published 5/11/2018 (521 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’ll dance. It’ll pose for selfies. It’ll even strike up a conversation if you get within a metre.
Pepper, a humanoid robot, is the newest employee at Sunova Credit Union.
"Right now, Pepper is mainly a greeter. So it attracts people as they’re walking by," said Bronwyn Fenn, Sunova marketing and public relations strategist.
"It tells them a bit of an enticing message to stop by, and Pepper will tell stories and answer questions that we’ve set about Sunova."
For example, you can ask it how many branches Sunova has: 15.
Sunova has three Winnipeg branches — Leila Avenue, Riverbend on North Main Street, and St. Mary’s Road — and the rest in rural Manitoba, including four nearby branches: Stonewall, Selkirk, East St. Paul and Oakbank.
Sunova hopes Pepper will be an ice-breaker with customers.
Pepper is making its first Sunova appearance at the Career Café at Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School on Thursday.
It’s made by Japanese firm, SoftBank Robotics, out of a North American office in San Francisco.
It has big eyes, a little face, arms and legs, and is white, like a slimmed down snowman, but it’s gender-neutral.
"We refer to it as ‘Pepper,’ or ‘the robot,’ or ‘it,’" Fenn said. "SoftBank doesn’t want to assign a gender to it."
It’s not going to replace any jobs — or dogs.
"It’s not going to replace a teller. It’s just to enhance the experience for members," Fenn said.
Nor will it replace St. Bernard dogs as Sunova’s official mascots.
"Our directors of greetings are dogs who go out to the branches. They’re St. Bernards and greet people as they come by," Fenn said.
If you get within a metre of Pepper, it will notice you and say something like, ‘Hey, come say hi," and start a conversation.
It can have facial-recognition abilities to discern the gender, general age and mood of the person it engages with, but that function isn’t uploaded yet.
The robots can be programmed for a variety of functions, such as giving out bank statements, Fenn said.
Sunova plans to take it around to various community events and rotate it around its different branches from time to time.
Sunova began in 1955 as the Stonewall Credit Union and now serves more than 45,000 members.