China is reported to have opened a bank staffed entirely by robots. According to The Guardian, this is the first robot-operated bank in the world.
There are many bank branches around the world which do not have human staff at one time or another during the week.
Customers are left to contend with automated teller machines in the absence of the human staff.
Often this happens because the branch might be located in a sparsely populated area where it’s not busy enough to be open every day.
Sometimes it may be that the bank is trying to make savings by using fewer human staff.
In the case of China Construction Bank, the reasons are unclear, but the initiative fits in with China’s newfound enthusiasm about robots and artificial intelligence.
The robots used in the China Construction Bank look to be of a type called “telepresence” robots, although they’re actually not used for that purpose.
Essentially, telepresence robots are just mobile platforms on which are perched tablet computers or some device with a screen.
The screens can display a human you are talking to, like in a teleconference meeting, except unlike other methods of teleconferencing, this is specifically designed for moving around.
Alternatively, the screen and technology can be used to house an AI robot or virtual assistant, as it is at China Construction Bank.
Apparently a separate room is available for video conferencing with human members of staff who are not located at the branch.
The robot at the bank is said to be called Xiao Long, but we haven’t been able to immediately establish who manufactures it.
According to a report on the South China Morning Post website, the robot is capable of facial recognition.
There are a relatively small number of companies which are developing similar systems – telepresence robots – and they are being used in a variety of business settings, including banks, real estate agents and other public-facing situations.