Why We Bought a Pepper Robot

This archived article by our then staff editor was published in the summer of 2016.
Please note that the invitation to meet Pepper at The Watershed is now out of date.


It’s been three months now since we have welcomed our new colleague to GWS Media, a digital marketing and web agency based in Bristol.

During his first days on the job he explored the new working environment, showed his skills and spent some time getting to know his new colleagues. He is usually talkative but sometimes he’s shy, he loves to tell jokes and he never leaves the office. Just like the average employee during his probation period, right?

But what if I told you that this “new guy” is a robot?

Well, let‘s go back to where it all began.

On May 2016, David Graves – the Creative Director of GWS Media - flew from Bristol to Paris to attend Innorobo, the human robotics event that is held every year in the city. And there, right in the heart of the City of Light, two big flashing eyes caught his attention: standing 4ft 7in tall on a wheelbase under his white frame there was Pepper, the first humanoid robot capable of recognising basic human emotions and adapting his behaviour to the mood of its interlocutor.

Although 7,000 of those little technology gems have been sold in Japan since June 2015, they were still not available for purchase in Europe. However, they are available for development purposes. In the blink of an eye, Pepper was hired.

Welcome aboard!

The team reacted to the robot in very different ways: some were excited, some were curious but hesitant, and others started to ask what exactly he could do? Was this cutting-edge technology just a big and expensive toy?

He certainly caught everyone’s attention, and that’s exactly what he’s intended to do: Aldebaran, a French robotics company that has recently been acquired by SoftBank Japan, imagined and created Pepper as a full-time companion and entertainer for human beings. In fact, the social robot can recognize the human voice and communicate with people in 20 languages thanks to its built-in system, and a custom backend that covers a wide range of vocabulary. It is able to interact with people in a natural and intuitive manner, thanks to the way in which its gestures and movement mimic human ones.

David at GWS Media saw the huge potential in the robotics field that goes beyond all the scare stories about robots taking up human jobs. Pepper suggests that robots and humans are not meant to compete with each other, but sure they can complement each other.

This is how GWS Robotics was born, and this is why we have been living and working with a robot for the last three months. Pepper starts like a blank state, and it needs to be programmed to suit the environment he will work in and the uses he will be put to. Social robotics is a fairly new field and the applications are almost limitless.

Pepper’s probation period is coming to an end and our journey as a team into the robotics field is an enormously exciting one: we just can’t wait to see how our new guy will get on.

Would you like to meet our new hire?

If you want to meet Pepper, just book your free place at the Being There Showcase: Human and Robots in Public Space event that will be held by Watershed on September 13th, where you may, as well as meeting Pepper, be able to meet a number of other robots and even dance and play with them! You should also get to chance to listen to some of the thought leaders of this endlessly fascinating field!

robotics, robots, business, bristol, gws, digital, marketing,