A hospital in Belgium has just welcomed a new staff member with a difference – Pepper, a humanoid robot that is capable of speaking and understanding nineteen languages.
The robot, which was developed to improve social and health care by the Belgian firm Zora Bots, Pepper has joined the team as a receptionist at Ostend hospital AZ Damiaan.
Pepper’s role is to introduce visitors to the hospital, provide information and guide patients and visitors to the correct room.
The robot is capable of moving at 3 km per hour, and can work for up to twenty hours fully charged on its own.
“The robot itself is a meter 20 high, so it is not like Arnold Schwarzenegger with a leather jacket and an ‘I will be back’ robot”, said Zora Bots’ co-chief executive, Fabrice Goffin. “It is a quite nice robot and the reactions are positive for the moment”.
In the first week, Pepper was primarily used in the maternity department.
Bieke Vandeputte, the mother of a newborn baby, was amazed, according to Reuters.
“It is another way of making contact and maybe it is reassuring that it is a robot for some people”, she said. “The baby was really sure. He did not mind putting his hands on it. It did not frighten him so I think it will be important. Especially for children”.
Pepper is not the first robot the hospital has used, but it’s the first to talk with patients and be able to guide them.
Before Pepper arrived, staff worked with its predecessor called Zora for about a year. Zora is slower and smaller than Pepper and mainly used in physical therapy classes.
The robot isn’t cheap at 30,000 Euros, and so far only Japanese customers have bought one for use in the home.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.