Humanoid Robots Transforming Customer Engagement

By Ayushee Sharma

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In this era of cut-throat competition, businesses are ever ready to experiment with innovative ideas to engage customers and ensure their satisfaction for better productivity and sales. Invento Robotics, founded by Balaji Viswanathan, Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnan and Bharath Kumar in Bengaluru in 2016, has built a range of humanoid robots for improved customer service while simultaneously reducing operational costs through automation to meet the market demands.

Balaji Viswanathan, co-founder and CEO, Invento Robotics, says, “We had started as a maker space and in our first Makerfaire, our robot project got the most attention. We used that opportunity to pivot to be a robotics company. We had an initial hypothesis that we validated with customer feedback to drive the product roadmap. Being an early mover in the market put the burden of market education on us, which was a key challenge.”

Company’s five-feet-tall flagship product, artificial intelligence (AI)-based humanoid Mitra, has a fibreglass body and is capable of navigating autonomously with obstacle detection. Computer vision lets the bot detect and recognise the visitors from their face, and identify their age, gender, emotional levels and more. Conversation engine can recognise visitors’ speech in different languages with natural language processing, based on which the bot can converse with them while simultaneously alerting the owner about their arrival. Collecting analytics of these behaviours and interactions helps businesses meet their customer requirements. Besides these functionalities, it is also possible to build a range of new interfaces on top of it.

Two different models, Mitra and Mitri, are offered by the company depending on client requirements. The main difference between the models is in their body design. “Their USP is that they are enterprise read robotics—a platform that allows customers to fully utilise our autonomous driving, vision and voice applications. The pricing varies based on the application and volumes,” adds Viswanathan.

The startup has already rented its robots for more than 75 corporate events in different countries. The bots have been used for a wide range of tasks like taking selfies of people, tweeting live and entertaining guests through music in these events. Viswanathan explains, “For the first three years, we were bootstrapped focused on revenues. We rented our robots under R&D for various events. This way we got to test dozens of product ideas and fund our R&D, while the customers also got unique robots for each event. As the robots matured, we focused primarily on enterprises for doing critical applications.”

Other application domains include assisting customers in understanding different bank offerings, making purchases in retail stores, providing health diagnosis for patients, remembering the dietary preferences of customers in restaurants, and so on. Such services have been used by Accenture, GM, HDFC Bank, PVR Cinemas, and Morris Garages, among others.

The company is focused on building new products. Mitra 3 was unveiled at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, USA. It comes with a better display and camera quality, has three degrees of freedom on each hand and one on the head, and supports languages like Hindi and Tamil. It lasts up to ten hours on a single charge.

The startup also launched an AI-enabled shopping cart, Spod (smart pod), with a focus on foreign supermarkets. Viswanathan says, “We want to be the Dell of the robotics industry, building a range of robots on a common platform and delivered to customers ready to build complex AI applications.”

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