- Client: Gemeentebestuuur Aalter & Tomorrowlab
- Services Provided: Humanoid Robotics
Innovating customer reception by combining chatbots with humanoid robotics
The city of Aalter, together with its partner Tomorrowlab, contacted us to set up a proof-of-concept to research the possibilities of robots in the city service. The city is looking at different ways to improve and modernize communication with citizens (Chatbot technology, Smart City Furniture, …). Part of this program was a one week trial at the city hall with our robot Pepper, a humanoid robot developed by Softbank.
During the proof of concept, we wanted to find an answer to the following questions:
- Is it possible to connect the robot up to a chatbot, so that the robot can answer a variety of frequently asked questions?
- Is it possible for the robot to navigate in the city hall, and guide visitors to the right desk or civil servant?
- How will the inhabitants of Aalter react to and interact with the robot?
First of all, we used the prototype of Stewie (a smart-city-chatbot-platform we’ve built) to test if we could use the robot as a Speech-to-Text interface for chatbot technology. Given some difficulties with regards to local dialects we could say that this aspect of the proof of concept went well, within the limitations of the chatbot of course.
In a next step, we examined if we could use the chatbot dialogues as a trigger for navigating the robot across the city hall. Think about a scenario where a visitor might ask to show him the way to a certain city service. We quite quickly found out that navigation is not flawless. The robot has sensors to avoid collisions, but isn’t 100% suited to intelligently navigate in an indoor space.
To answer the last question of the proof-of-concept we built a short quiz. The robot would ask visitors to answer 5 questions about the city of Aalter, so visitors would have the chance to briefly play with the robot. During this short timeframe, we observed the visitor to see how he or she would interact with the robot.
The conclusion of our one-week proof of concept was that humanoid robots could definitely offer added value to the city services. During our research we found that most visitors expect the robot to answer frequently asked questions, somewhat like a reception agent would do. Using the robot as an interface for a city-chatbot seems like a good use case for the near future. Having the robot navigate you to the right counter or city service could be a next step, but requires some improvements in the navigation software.