Asia's first retail robot launched to help relieve manpower shortages

SINGAPORE - Imagine walking into a store and being greeted at the door. You tell your sales assistant what you are looking for and he leads you straight to the correct shelf. You ask for price comparisons and the information is immediately conveyed to you.

When you finally decide on what to buy, instead of standing in a long queue, you can make payment with your sales assistant who also knows whether you have a membership with the retailer.

All that may seem too good to be true, but it is now possible with a new robot that was launched by Newstead Technologies on Friday (May 26).

The XYZrobot is an almost human-sized robot that has a screen as its electronic "eyes" and another screen to display price information and other details.

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"It's the first of its kind in Asia," said Mr Simon Shen, 51, the chief executive officer of New Kinpo Group at the launch in Marina Mandarin Hotel.

The idea of the robot was conceived over three years ago to help cope with manpower shortages and was created by XYZprinting and New Kinpo Group.

"Fewer young people want to do jobs that pay less such as retail. So as our population ages, we must keep up with the manpower shortages," said Mr Shen.

He added that people ought to be doing jobs that require higher thinking and that robots can fill in the gaps for tasks that require less of a human touch.

Mr Sky Chen, general manager of Newstead, said robots could help retailers save costs. "This robot does not get sick or need to take leave. So if you calculate the costs of purchasing the robot verses hiring an employee, a shop could easily see how it is worth it."

Each robot has the ability to run for about eight hours on a four-hour charge. It will also be able to return to its charging point as often as it needs to, such as when there are no customers to serve. This will help it to run for the duration of a shop's opening hours, which often extends beyond eight hours.

The robot will be on display for visitors to engage with at the PC Show 2017. It will later make its debut in Newstead's store at Suntec City. It will be sold at a starting price of $12,000 from August this year.