Robots are coming to one of South-east Asia's largest malls

The talking robots will provide mall directions and information on promotions and events in SM's three largest malls in the Philippines.
The talking robots will provide mall directions and information on promotions and events in SM's three largest malls in the Philippines.PHOTO: ST FILE

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines' richest man Henry Sy will start rolling out robots next year to help customers navigate his massive shopping malls.

Initially, three androids will be deployed in the first quarter of 2019 in SM Megamall, the nation's second-biggest shopping centre, said Mr Steven Tan, chief operating officer for the shopping malls of SM Prime Holdings. The talking bots will provide mall directions and information on promotions and events, Mr Tan said.

Megamall, among the biggest in South-east Asia, spans 477,000 sq m or an area equivalent to about 89 football fields, and serves about 277,000 people every day, according to data from SM. If the pilot is successful, the group will bring the robots to its biggest shopping centre SM North Edsa and other major malls, Mr Tan said.

"Customer service is at the core of everything that we do and we always aim to make the shopping experience fun and seamless," he said.

SM's three largest malls in the Philippines attract a daily foot traffic equivalent to 10 per cent of Metro Manila's 13 million population. SM's 72 malls nationwide haul in more than 3.5 million customers each day.

Mr Sy, who migrated from China's Fujian province and built his wealth from a shoe store he opened in Manila in 1948, expanded into shopping malls in the 1980s to house his growing retail ventures.

The robots will employ AI technologies to provide information to customers through an interactive, seamless and real-time platform, according to Cal-Comp Technology (Philippines), the provider and producer of the androids.