A hilarious robot fail story came from Scottish University Heriot-Watt who developed Fabio, a robot which is designed to hold conversations with people. The mechanism of Fabio is just the same as Siri or Alexa. The speech of Fabio is also processed before it starts speaking. The team who developed Fabio were interested in knowing if their creation works and responds properly in real life so they were looking for volunteers. Scottish supermarket Margiotta agreed to take Fabio. It was at the supermarket as a meet and greet intern but then things changed a little.
Fabio was doing an amazing job initially. The robot used to say hello to customers when they entered the store. It also complimented the customers by saying ‘hello gorgeous’ and also high-fived people. Even though Fabio was friendly with the customers, however, he lacked the work ethics that are required to work in a busy supermarket. The robot chatted happily when asked about the weather and various other common topics but if inquired anything about the store, he became very much less friendly. For example, when it was asked “where is the wine?” he responded with, “in the alcohol section.” When asked where the cheese was, he answered in a very thin voice saying “aisle three.”
The store owner, Luisa Margiotta said about Fabio that, “Instead it just gave a general location, for example, ‘cheese is in the fridges’, which was not very helpful.” Fabio couldn’t handle the job it was assigned. So to improve his skills he was assigned to do a simpler job which was to hand out the samples of sausage in the cold food aisle. This job turned out to be a great failure too.
Turns out a robot handing out samples of cold meat is a terrifying experience to people. So much that the customers actually started to avoid him. When the same task was given to a human employee he was able to attract almost 12 customers to try the samples every 15 minutes. While Fabio was able to attract only 2 customers at the same time. This time, the supermarket owner decided that the time of Fabio at the supermarket was up.
On breaking the news of Fabio’s firing, he was not affected much but his coworkers were very disturbed. One of the workers, Margiotta, burst into tears. Dr. Oliver Lemon, director of the International Lab at Heriot-Watt University said, “One of the things we didn’t expect was the people working in the shop became quite attached to it. It was good in a way because we thought the opposite would happen and they would feel threatened by it because it was competing for their job.”
It seems like Fabio’s colleagues was not worried that the robot will take over their jobs. They were happy in his company as he took some part of their daily jobs which they hated the most, talking to customers. Lemon said, “In actual fact, they thought it was an enhancement because it was able to deal with frequent and boring requests, like customers constantly asking where things are, which I think they found quite helpful.”