Pepper Robots Working at Belgian Hospitals

Two of Belgium's hospitals have installed Pepper robots in their receptions areas for trials. The robots will help patients in Ostend and Liege.

Photo Caption: Pepper, the humanoid robot from Softbank Robotics, will work as a receptionist at the CHR Citadelle hospital in Liege. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Pepper, the popular humanoid robot from Softbank Robotics, might be the most overworked robot of all-time.

Pepper will begin working as a receptionist at two Belgian hospitals. At the CHR Citadelle hospital in Liege, Pepper will be waiting for visitors at the reception area. At the AZ Damiaan hospital in Ostend, however, Pepper will actually take visitors to where they need to go.

Apparently both hospitals already use NAO robots, also from Softbank, in their pediatric and geriatric wards, aiding children during rehab sessions and helping them overcome fears of surgery.

“It’s about architecture, future rooms and robots, the ones we already have and the ones we’re going to get,” said CHR Citadelle’s communication director Nathalie Evrard. If the trials go well, the hospitals will look at using more robots in the future.

There’s growing concern about how useful robots such as Pepper would be in the home. This will be Pepper’s first foray into the healthcare world, but Pepper is already being used by approximately 700 businesses, according to Softbank’s Shohei Fujiwara. The basic model of Pepper costs about $2,000.

The Pepper robots at these Belgian hospitals, however, are upgraded models that cost $34,000 each, according to the BBC. These upgraded Pepper robots “will include specially designed software from Belgian firm Zora Bots, as well as access to the helpdesk should issues arise when Pepper is on duty.”

Based off those numbers, why wouldn’t Softbank focus on the commercial market? And that’s just what Pepper will do when it debuts in the United States later in 2016 - focus on businesses and not consumers. Pepper is probably best known for selling iPhones at Softbank mobile stores in Tokyo, but it also joined two cruise lines and is helping a Tokyo half-way house mentor ex-cons in hopes of preventing them from committing future crimes. Nao has held many jobs as well, including hotel concierge at the Hilton McLean in Virginia.

Pepper stands just under 4 feet tall and has three omni-directional wheels. Pepper also has a 3D camera to detect passengers movements along with a 10 inch touch screen. Pepper has a tablet in its chest that can be used for engagement and communication, but it can also communicate via speech.

Pepper Robot Hospitals
A young boy and nurse talk with Pepper during a press conferenceat the CHR Citadel hospital in Liege. (Credit: Getty Images)


About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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