Fabio retail robot fired after one week

Occurred: January 2018

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Fabio, a robot designed at Heriot-Watt University to communicate with humans, appears to have put people off when trialed at Scottish supermarket chain Margiotta's flagship Edinburgh store.

A customised version of Softbank's Pepper robot, Fabio was programmed to communicate, be helpful, have fun and tell jokes, and dispense hugs and high-fives. 

But it turned out that Fabio wasn't much good at any of these things, though his designers reckoned his job was made no easier by background noise. When managers noticed customers actively avoiding the robot, the trial was ended after one week. 

Unexpectedly, Margiotta employees seemed to enjoy Fabio's company, feeling that it reduced more menial parts of their jobs. Some employees started crying when he was fired.

Operator: Margiotta
Developer: Heriot-Watt University; Softbank

Country: UK

Sector: Retail

Purpose: Improve customer service

Technology: Robotics
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Employment - jobs; Anthropomorphism


Page info
Type: Incident
Published: March 2023