Punggol gets a slightly creepy, but helpful humanoid robot

What a time to be alive. You know all those robots you see in sci-fi films and TV serials? Yeah, they’re all coming to life in our lifetime for sure; well, at least the cute, helpful and friendly ones and not the ones out for blood, for now. The Pizza Hut outlet at Safra Punggol has just added its first non-human employee to their staff, but it’ll only be sticking around until this Sunday (Mar 18).

, Punggol gets a slightly creepy, but helpful humanoid robot

If you have your finger on the pulse of tech, you’ll probably recognize this human-shaped robot. These “Pepper” robots are the work of Japan-based SoftBank Robotics, and have been around for a couple of years, often used for various service and retail services. They’re not here to replace actual humans—they can’t actually make the food or serve it—but more as a value-added service that’s advantageous to both businesses and consumers.

Over at Pizza Hut, this robot will assist staff in greeting diners and taking their orders over a five-day pilot program, which kicked off yesterday afternoon (Mar 14). It’s a fresh experience for young families and pretty much anyone who hasn’t interacted with a social humanoid (remember the human-like Nadine at last year’s Human+: The Future of Our Species exhibition?).

There are a couple of steps to take before actually placing your order with the robot. First, you’ll have to download the Pizza Hut Singapore app onto your phone, fire it up and then set up your Mastercard Masterpass account. Once it greets you (or vice versa), sync the app to the robot, and you can speak to it to make your selections (yes, it’ll tell you keywords to say). When you’re done choosing, you’ll be required to show a QR code which will provide it with the table you’re dining at. That’s pretty much it.

It worked fine during a demo by Tobias Puehse, vice-president of Labs at Mastercard Asia Pacific, at the launch yesterday. However, a couple of people couldn’t make their orders as seamlessly as Puehse. The trick is to enunciate all the words properly—you can’t eat any syllable or it won’t understand what you’re trying to say.

At the end of the pilot program, feedback from diners will be consolidated, which will determine whether the robot will become a mainstay at the outlet.