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Fabio Gets Fired by Scottish Grocery Store Employer

Let me take you to Scotland. A little Scottish grocery store that decided to try something new by employing  a robot helper called Pepper. For the uninitiated, Pepper launched in Japan in 2015 by SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company, which partnered with Aldebaran SAS, a French robotics company to create a robot that could read human emotions. When they marketed the robot as an assistant for businesses, as well as a companion for families and those living alone, the first 1,000 units sold out in 60 seconds at a cost of $1,650 each.

Since the grocer had an Italian surname and sold Italian-style groceries, they decided to rename Pepper as Fabio. Because Fabio could interact with customers, he was expected to become a curiosity that would drive up business at the Margiotta food store.

In Edinburgh, Shopbot is delivered to the Margiotta food store. One of the last small food businesses in town, the Margiotta’s have spent decades building a customer base (which values) the friendly human interaction they offer. But the new generation of the family who run the business want to look to the future, and they invite a robot worker to try and compete.

At first Fabio was a little stingy with the right amount of information that was being sought by the customer. For instance if a customer asked where the milk was, Fabio would say, “in the fridge,” without telling the customer WHERE in the store the fridge was. Other examples came out in a BBC documentary that was made to study six robots in England and how they affected human lives.

Fabio or Pepper? Hard to tell.

There were other issues with Fabio, too, that led to his dismissal. Perhaps if he had been as handsome as the long-maned namesake Fabio who was featured on the covers of romance novels, he might have been forgiven for his rudeness, but the blank-faced robot Fabio was given the boot.