Our Génération Robots Consulting Firm in service robotics (the GR Lab), joined forces recently with communications consultancy Auditoire (Coca-Cola, Nissan, Carrefour) as part of the Viva Tech event.
Attracting some 200 speakers, 5,000 start-ups and numerous large groups like Orange, EDF, Facebook and even Google, this new event dedicated to technology set some very high standards.
The Pepper/Futura robot, programmed by Génération Robots
For the Viva Tech booth of its EDF client, Auditoire wanted a new medium that would generate a buzz and get people talking – so they chose the Pepper robot! Her mission? To interact with and entertain visitors while also presenting futuristic energy technologies.
So our GR Lab engineers programmed the Pepper robot by Softbank Robotics, christened “Futura” for the occasion.
The aim was to attract visitors to hear presentations on energies of the future, and make sure they stay through to the end.
The challenge lay in avoiding the robot being considered simply a tablet on wheels that recites presentations, it had to seem alive.
So we rolled up our sleeves and got down to work. Pepper had to do a lot of talking at the booth, and we needed to create different types of human-machine interaction with visitors to encourage them to stay to find out more.
We spent long hours listening to Pepper reciting his presentations in order to make improvements and add pauses to ensure the dialogue sounded as natural as possible. We also paid careful attention to pronunciation, which is a crucial aspect of the development process and trickier than it sounds, especially when dealing with expressions, English and coined words.
#2 Movement and body language
Once we’d completed the dialogue part, we had to work on movement to ensure Pepper was never static when talking to visitors, so they felt they were communicating with a real person. Here too, we did extensive behavioural research and testing.
Our development work included some dancing, for which we introduced lots of benchmarks to create natural movements, making the different parts of Pepper’s body (arm, head, hips) move either in turn or simultaneously.
#3 Tablet images and tactile animation
The third biggest aspect of our GR Lab engineering work involved the creation of presentation videos, which had to include automatic zooms on specific areas of the videos shown.
Here we opted for a montage of individual images taken from different positions and with different zooms, which once assembled created the result we were looking for.
Mission accomplished! Futura’s presence at the EDF booth, on the theme of Life in 2030, created a buzz and increased its visibility and impact both on site and on line thanks to numerous tweets, photos and videos shared on Twitter. And of course the dance proved particularly successful.
Not only did the company have an innovative booth, with a smart wall, they were also lucky enough to benefit from stunning presentations thanks to Pepper. Which just goes to show that robots still attract crowds.
Programming robots to speak and communicate is more complex than it seems. Lots of parameters are involved and the text must be edited to make speech sound as natural as possible. Pepper is and remains a robot, so making it talk like us will always be a challenge.
At trade shows and exhibitions, the Pepper robot can prove a real time saver, by managing for example the product and service presentation aspect of your marketing plan, in addition to attracting more visitors to your booth.
EDF : “We chose the best; it was the best Pepper programming at this year’s Viva Technology show“