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Robots take over Japanese bank


A Japanese bank will use robots that will interact with customers and collaborate with one another.
Mizuho Bank plans to use a new common robotics platform using research developed by IBM Research-Tokyo for its customer service-oriented robots. The bank has already been using Watson technologies for the past year in its call centres to improve client experience.
Most existing robots operate on commercially available technology platforms that can limit customization and prevent companies from applying robots to new tasks or activities. IBM researchers are developing new technologies that will benefit Mizuho’s Robotics platform by tapping into Watson’s natural language and other cognitive capabilities to facilitate smoother human/robot interaction and to enable collaboration between two or more robots.
Beginning in May, Mizuho Bank will deploy this platform on Pepper robots from SoftBank Robotics across local branches.
The robots will interact with bank customers and analyze information from the Mizuho Bank web site as well as customer-specific information to offer more personalised customer interactions, allowing bank employees to focus on higher value tasks.
Pepper’s physical characteristics, complemented by Watson’s natural language processing capabilities, will allow bank customers to have a natural conversation during which their words as well as their gestures and expressions, are understood.
“Mizuho Bank is dedicated to exploring new technologies such as cognitive computing to continually improve our client experience,” says Nobuhide Hayashi, CEO and president of Mizuho Bank. “The insights gained from our collaboration with Watson – and customer interactions with our branch robots – will help us further improve our customer service and drive innovation in the financial space.”
Mizuho Bank established its Incubation Department in April 2014, dedicated to fostering the adoption of new technologies and creating new businesses that will improve client experiences. The company will apply the expertise gathered from these projects to other bank operations, including transaction processing and consulting efforts. For example, Mizuho Bank will leverage insights from Watson’s cognitive services to deliver customer support with greater speed and accuracy, eventually using that intelligence to improve mobile app and ATM services for customers.
“Working with innovators such as Mizuho Bank provides an incredible opportunity to put a cognitive-powered form factor in front of consumers,” says Paul Yonamine, GM of IBM Japan. “As we further embed cognitive capabilities in robotics, we’ll begin to see consumers engage with this technology in new ways, furthering the growth of the technology.”
In October 2015, IBM Research-Tokyo established the Cognitive Robot Innovation Lab (CRIL) to explore and develop new robotics technologies. The CRIL has combined cognitive systems, like IBM Watson, with robots to encourage industry innovation, allowing robots to analyze, perceive and learn information to have more natural interactions with humans. Moving forward, IBM will continue to collaborate with clients to help them use cognitive systems to create new business models and domains.