Humanoid robot NAO takes on receptionist tasks at rental office firm Crosscoop Singapore

NAO, a humanoid robot developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics, demonstrating how it will help answer questions at the reception of office rental firm Crosscoop Singapore.
NAO, a humanoid robot developed by the French company Aldebaran Robotics, demonstrating how it will help answer questions at the reception of office rental firm Crosscoop Singapore. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG
NAO is currently on a two-month trial at Crosscoop Singapore, where it will help answer questions at the reception. It can also dance.
NAO is currently on a two-month trial at Crosscoop Singapore, where it will help answer questions at the reception. It can also dance. ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

SINGAPORE - Once flooded with endless questions every day, receptionists at rental office firm Crosscoop Singapore may soon have an easier day at the office thanks to a new colleague who is literally wired for the job.

NAO, a humanoid robot, can provide a range of information from the phone numbers of recommended accounting firms to details about nearby restaurants including cuisine type and pricing. The robot, which can communicate in Japanese and English, occasionally breaks into a dance too.

NAO is just 57cm tall and bears a childlike appearance.

To access its database, visitors and tenants at Crosscoop Singapore need to select the type of information they want on a tablet placed in front of it, and the robot will provide the answer.

On Thursday (April 6), the firm gave a demonstration of NAO's abilities to the media.

NAO is on a two-month trial at the firm, a collaboration between SoftBank Telecom Singapore, Crosscoop Singapore and IT firm Nippon Jimuki. The trial ends in May.

NAO was previously on trial at MY World Preschool in Bukit Panjang, where it taught children in interactive ways, such as by dancing.

According to SoftBank Telecom Singapore - the local distributor of NAO - about 60 units of the robot, each costing about $14,000, has been sold here.

Crosscoop Singapore's hope is that NAO will help to reduce the monthly working hours of each receptionist from 160 hours to 150 hours.

The firm operates on the 10th storey of a commercial building at 80, Robinson Road.

Ms Atsuko Sato, 32, an office manager at Crosscoop Singapore, said she and other staff manning the front desk often get questions about Singapore from the 80 Japanese companies it rents office space to, including where to eat and the names of banks here.

"Coupled with phone calls from potential customers, it is sometimes too much for us to handle, and at times we have to put people on hold," she said.

"Now we can leave NAO to answer the simple questions, and we can concentrate on questions which required more detailed explanations."