New Zealanders have joined people queuing all round the world for this year’s hottest phone launch – but they are the first in the world to use robots to queue for them.
“Queuing has become an iconic part of new device fan culture,” said Clive Ormerod, GM Customer and Marketing for Spark. “Nine years ago when we saw people camped for days outside stores. These days, technology is so much more advanced. We thought, why shouldn’t our customers have their tech queue for them instead?”
Spark has brought one hundred Alpha 1 robots, manufactured by Chinese company UBTECH, to New Zealand especially to stand in line on behalf of its customers.
Spark said that bringing in this ‘robot army’ for the upcoming phone launch wasn’t just about creating a novel queue experience, but using technology to its customers’ benefit.
Ormerod explained, “We wanted to give our existing customers an experience of the atmosphere and excitement of the queue, without actually having to line up and wait it out until launch day. By having a robot queue for them, they can get on with their lives and still be first to get the newest device”.
Each robot is paired with a Spark customer and kitted out with a device that lets the customer live-stream into the queue from wherever they are in the lead up to the phone going on sale.
Customers can control the robots’ actions through a smartphone app, getting them to do press ups, kung Fu, yoga, mimic Olympic sports and even dance to your favourite tune.
On launch day, customers who queued in Spark’s Robot Queue will not only get the newest, most covetable device first, they’ll also get to keep their robot.
The robots can be viewed around the country, queueing in Auckland, Christchurch and Hamilton Spark stores.
The Robot Queue
Lover of science and technology Dr Michelle Dickinson, AKA Nanogirl, was introduced to her robot two weeks ago.
“I’ve named him Nanobot,” Dickinson said, “as a nanotechnologist it seemed fitting.”
Dickinson has been getting Nanobot queue fit, and has been impressed by what he can do.
“He’s great – he’s already programmed to complete movements and tasks, but I’m pushing myself to code him to do even more.”
Artificial intelligence and robotics are rapidly emerging technologies, and this year could be the tipping point for robot zeitgeist, with more and more people using them to help out in homes and businesses.
You may have already talked to a robot online without realising it. Many online shopping sites take advantage of ‘chat bots’ and in Shanghai you can eat at a restaurant run by robots. In the USA, there are stores where lifelike robot ‘Pepper’ greets customers as they enter.
“Many people don’t realise how much robotics are a part of things they consume, from cars to food,” Dickinson said. “People are adopting robot vacuum cleaners to help with household chores. I think robots will become part of everyday life for more people very soon.”