Anastasia Shumkova, Marketing and PR Director at Eden Mall talks about the experience with Promobot.
Our mall isn’t like any other mall. We don’t have administrators or receptionists, our entire location is relatively small. That aspect was crucial in our decision to get an autonomous service robot. It would travel around and help people in its way.
We didn’t really research the market when purchasing our V.4; the owner of the building saw Promobot robot at an event, chatted with it, and decided to buy one on that same day. The robot is called Eden — just like our mall.
Its primary function is to assist. For example, it can answer questions, show a path to any facility at the mall, display the nearest bus stop schedule. People can ask pretty much anything, and we must prepare the robot for it. We analyzed most general questions that our visitors ask from our staff, and created a special language database for the robot. Eden knows everything there is to know for it.
For a while, people were so shocked that they weren’t sure how to communicate with the robot; or if they were allowed to do that. People try a few phrases and ask general questions but don’t really know what they can ask. Our regular visitors know about it, but it isn’t easy to realize the robot knows and can tell where the restroom is.
In that case, Eden starts the conversation first. It introduces itself, asks questions, makes compliments, and starts talking with people. Most folks aren’t familiar with robots, so when Promobot breaks the ice, it works like a charm. People feel more comfortable and confident in how the rest of their conversation will go. One time, two older women approached the robot and started talking about it. In just a few moments, one of them said: “let’s go, or I’ll start flirting with this fella!”
After we bought Eden, several malls in our area started using robotics too. We even had calls from a few cities to help us decide on a model and supplier. To be a pioneer of such an exciting industry feels thrilling but also cool.
I saw people who would come to our mall specifically to see an actual working robot. Some of our visitors go specifically to it. They don’t come to the mall for shopping; they go to the robot and start talking with it (luckily, they didn’t start bringing presents just yet.)
We are located in a college town, which means we are far away from the city, and that we’re in the middle of a small area. The robot news spread like wildfire — thanks to social networks and people talking. Our mall regularly gets a lot of mentions, in part thanks to Eden. We had a few cases when a strap would get loose or one of the fingers would malfunction. In that case, Promobot helped us with maintenance all the way through. The company even found a specialist in the area who would visit us and repair the robot, even if it doesn’t happen that often.
Each Saturday, we have special events at the mall — contests, fairs, and expos. Every time the robot goes away to recharge, people forget about everything and follow it to the charging station. One time there were so many children around it that I had to tell them that the robot is ‘out for lunch.’ When a little boy asked, ‘what does he eat?’ I had to think fast, and so I said ‘nuts and bolts.’ The more you know.