The Pepper Challenge invited student teams to propose innovative ideas for how to make the best use of Pepper, an interactive humanoid robot manufactured by SoftBank, in the hospitality industry. The competition received 60 submissions, and the final nine teams competed for $10,000 prize money provided by The Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship.
The first-place business plan, winning $5,000, came from three roommates with complementary skills: Nikita Gupta ’17, a computer science major in the College of Engineering; Sonali Tolani ’17, an applied economics and management major in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; and Gauri Khanna ’17, a hotel administration major in the School of Hotel Administration.
They proposed an application for Pepper as a “bar-tainer” that would make waiting at a bar or restaurant more entertaining. With Pepper, patrons could order a customized cocktail, play games or check their makeup using its camera mirror function. For a fee, Pepper would take a photo or play song requests. At the end of the night, patrons could see if they had had too much to drink by taking a short test with Pepper, by doing simple arithmetic and reading blurry text on its tablet. They could then could ask Pepper to order a cab. The team took Pepper’s limitations into consideration and suggested it be placed in a quiet location, like a coat check or entrance.