US: Uniqlo's sales robot assigned to New York flagship
Fulfilling the dreams of bosses everywhere, Wakamaru San is never late, doesn't gossip or throw sickies, and somewhat unnervingly never stops smirking.
That is because one metre tall Wakamura is an android employed by Japanese fashion chain Uniqlo.
This Mitsubishi-made winsome bot is now working at Uniqlo's flagship store in New York as part of the vanguard of so-called "second generation" robots, autonomous machines designed to help around the home and workplace - permanently.
Wakamaru will greet guests, make eye contact, recognise people, make arm movements, lead staff in motivational morning exercises and communicate promotions to customers.
It is the first time outside of Japan that robots have been used to work in a shop, despite Wakamura robots being used for everything from hospital porter work to office receptionist jobs in Japan.
Designed by Japan's Toshiyuki Kita and developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Wakmura is the first serious attempt to commercialise a robot that can be used in the workplace.
Ten of the bots touting "strong receptionist skills" were recently taken on by an employment agency in Japan where they now are on hire for GBP12,000 (US$21,257) a year.
"We are very honoured that Uniqlo USA and the people of New York City have welcomed Wakamaru " said Ryota Hiura, manager of the wakamaru technical team.
"We hope that Wakamaru will make many new friends during his stay in New York."
Fast Retailing-owned is planning to open stores in India and Russia, having successfully broken into the UK and US and been commonly tagged as the Japanese version of Gap.
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