SoftBank's Pepper robot gets a job waiting tables at Pizza Hut

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Softbank's robot "companion," Pepper, is about to get its very first human experience: Working at a pizza parlor.

Payments network MasterCard announced Tuesday it had teamed up with Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia, owned by Yum Brands, to deploy Pepper in selected outlets in Asia by the end of the year.

The robot would be able to chat with customers, make recommendations, take their orders and accept payments using MasterCard's digital payment service, MasterPass.

Tobias Puehse, vice-president at digital payments and labs at MasterCard, said in a statement that the robot's new job was to "provide customers with more memorable and personalized shopping experience beyond today's self-service machines and kiosks."

Source: MasterCard

Pepper, developed by SoftBank Robotics, was showcased at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year.

A key feature of the robot was that it could recognize basic emotions in people - smiles, frowns, looks of surprise, anger and sadness. It could also detect intonation, contexts behind words and non-verbal cues such as the tilt of head.

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Demand for the robot had been high, with thousands of units sold, according to SoftBank.

The announcement was part of MasterCard's initiatives to put their payment technologies on to various consumer gadgets, accessories and wearable devices around the world.

In January, the payments network announced an application that allowed users in the U.S. to order groceries directly from Samsung's Family Hub - a smart, Wi-fi-enabled touch screen refrigerator.

MasterCard also announced the availability of its payment technology on fitness trackers and smart watches from wearables providers Atlas, Moov and Omate.

Pepper the humanoid robot, manufactured by SoftBank Group Corp., stands as employees work in the Orange Arch Inc. offices in Tokyo, Japan.
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Smart internet-connected devices are on the rise: Research firm Gartner estimated in 2016, there would be 6.4 billion connected items in use worldwide, up 30 percent on-year, with 5.5 million new products connected every day. By 2020, there would be 20.8 billion connected devices in the world.

Pizza Hut was not the only player to turn to artificial intelligence in pizza delivery.

In March, Domino's Pizza announced plans to introduce a four-wheeled smart vehicle that could deliver pizzas in Australia. The pizza maker said it was working with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads and other partners to test the concept and ensure it met regulatory requirements.

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