Remember Nila, the super smart and resourceful humanoid assistant played by Amy Jackson in 2.0? Last week, Bengaluru's Invento Robotics presented to the world somebody who has striking similarities to Nila. She is Mitri and her creators claim that she is India's first female robot receptionist.
At one glance, Mitri does not possess any obvious human-like exterior. Her dome-shaped, antenna-fitted head, fully plastic body frame and blue LED eyes give her an R2D2-esque look if anything. Yet, five minutes into interacting with her, one cannot help but grasp her subtle mannerisms - something that makes her so endearingly human-like.
Mitri is constantly blinking her eyes and turning her head to check the people around her. And it's not just the blinking; once you register your details with her - a process where she will ask you questions and will register your name, age, workplace and other details - she will recognise you. And once she recognises you, her eyes widen.
“She will even raise her hand to give you a handshake," says her creator Balaji Viswanathan.
Mitri, a robot with social skills
Two years ago, Balaji returned from his job in the US and set up a tech exhibition in Bengaluru, along with his spouse Mahalakshmi.
“We had an array of items on display at the tech exhibition. But our biggest hit was a humanoid. Everybody was drawn to it," says Mahalakshmi, the Chief of Operations at Invento. This led them to explore the idea of a robotics firm.
Gathering a team of technical experts, Balaji and Mahalakshmi set up their robotics firm in Bengaluru, the IT hub of India. With their team, which consisted of several women working and heading the marketing, tech support and testing verticals, they brought to life Mitri.
Being a robot with social skills is no easy task. Yet, Mitri does exactly this as she was conceived with a very specific purpose of being a 'people's robot'.
"We designed her to be a front desk and HR robot and hence she does a lot of tasks, which people will connect with,” Balaji says.
By adding social skills to the humanoid, Invento's goal was to use Artificial Intelligence to revolutionise front desk operations.
“Most times, data collection and processing is a cumbersome activity for the front desk. By giving this work to the AI and monitoring it, you are increasing the speed and efficiency at which data is collected and processed," he says.
Revolutionising front desk ops with Mitri
Mitri can collect and process personal details and performance records of employees. She can process this data at lightning speed, unlike her human counterparts, according to Balaji.
"She can process their performance, recognise them when they appear in front of her and give them personal inputs on how they can improve. She can move around and interact with employees at their workstations and can even sense when people are having bad days or are depressed. If she does sense this with employee mannerisms, Mitri will interact with them carefully to cheer them up," he elucidates.
She can also be coded to speak multiple languages. "Right now, she speaks only English. But we can code other languages based on the requirements of our clients," he adds.
Tech revolutions in traditional workspaces will take time to get accepted. Yet, Mitri's soaring popularity demonstrates that companies are willing to take the risk and invest in bots and humanoids who could transform workspace as they knew it.
Despite being a new arrival in the tech space, Mitri boasts of some high profile clients.
The Chennai International Airport recently invested in her and she now moves around the screening and check-in kiosks to ensure that passengers have a smooth boarding experience. Smartworks, a workspace experience firm and concierge service, has also invested in the humanoid to enhance their HR and front desk verticals.
Mitri is surely going places. But she isn't alone. Along with her is Mitra - a male robot assistant created by Invento. And together, they are all set to supplement workspaces with AI.