Nao, the robot will answer your questions

ST VIDEO: SAMANTHA BOH
Nao can provide a range of information, from accounting firms to nearby restaurants. Crosscoop Singapore hopes Nao will help reduce the monthly working hours of each receptionist from 160 hours to 150 hours.
Nao can provide a range of information, from accounting firms to nearby restaurants. Crosscoop Singapore hopes Nao will help reduce the monthly working hours of each receptionist from 160 hours to 150 hours.ST PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Flooded with questions every day, receptionists at Japanese rental- office firm Crosscoop Singapore may have an easier time at the office if the firm recruits a new colleague who is wired for the job.

Nao, a humanoid robot, can provide a range of information, from preferred accounting firms to nearby restaurants, including their cuisine type and pricing.

The robot, which is just 57cm tall and can communicate in Japanese and English, occasionally breaks into a dance too.

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

Yesterday, Crosscoop Singapore demonstrated Nao's abilities to the media. The robot is on a two-month trial at the firm, a collaboration between SoftBank Telecom Singapore, Crosscoop Singapore and IT firm Nippon Jimuki.

Last April, it went on a six- month trial at MY World Preschool in Bukit Panjang, where it taught children in interactive ways, such as by dancing.

SoftBank Telecom Singapore - the local distributor of Nao - said about 60 units of the robot, costing about $14,000 each, have been sold here.

Crosscoop Singapore hopes Nao will help reduce the monthly working hours of each receptionist from 160 hours to 150 hours.

Ms Atsuko Sato, 32, an office manager at the firm, said she and other staff manning the front desk often get questions about Singapore from the 80 Japanese companies it rents office space to.

"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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'Nao, the robot will answer your questions'. Print Edition | Subscribe