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Mitra and Candi: The robots who take care of customers at Canara Bank in Bengaluru

There is a novelty factor to the use of the robots, but they are also a part of Canara Bank’s bigger goal to increase digitisation.

india Updated: Sep 22, 2017 12:29 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis and Vikram Gopal
Sutirtho Patranobis and Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Dalian/Bengaluru
Canara Bank,Robots,Humanoid Robots
A staff of Canara Bank demonstrates Candi, the robot which welcomes customers as receptionists at Bengaluru Circle Office in Bengaluru, India, on Thursday, September 21, 2017. (Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)

Customer care comes with a humanoid touch these days at two Bengaluru offices of Canara Bank, a public sector undertaking.

Mitra, a humanoid robot developed by Bengaluru-based Invento Robotics and named after the Vedic god of friendship, could well be the poster child for cooperation in artificial intelligence (AI) between India and China.

Japan’s SoftBank Robotics too is in the mix with humanoid robot Candi.

Mitra and Candi have found home in the Karnataka capital.

Mitra greets customers in Kannada and helps them navigate the bank’s head office on JC Road, while Candi offers answers in English to 215 preset questions at the financial institution’s circle office on MG Road.

The 4.5-ft tall Mitra, deployed in May, is undergoing an upgrade and is not at work at the moment, said a bank official.

Bhanu Venkatesh, manager-technology, at the head office, said Mitra is programmed to help customers navigate the large premises. “It is placed on a conveyor system that helps it move forward and back. It essentially performs the function of a receptionist.”

Mitra, the robot which welcomes customers as receptionists at Canara Bank head office in Bengaluru, India, on Thursday, September 21, 2017. (Arijit Sen/Hindustan Times)

Candi, which is slightly smaller than Mitra and was deployed in July, is supplementing the human resource.

People were seen engaging with Candi on Thursday, but some still preferred to turn to the human at the ‘May I Help You’ kiosk.

Shwetha A, an officer at Candi’s branch, said, “There are two modes for Candi — normal and banking. In the normal mode, Candi can respond to a range of questions. However, we keep it on banking mode in which it can only respond to 215 questions, which are displayed next to it.”

Among the questions are commonly asked ones such as where to make a deposit.

There is a novelty factor to the robots, but they are also a part of the bank’s bigger goal to increase digitisation.

Satish Kumar HS, marketing manager at the bank’s circle office, said, “We intend to have such facilities in around 50 branches. The robot is one aspect of the digital branch we are attempting to set up.”

Bank officials said Mitra cost about Rs 3 lakh, whereas Candi cost around Rs 10 lakh.

China’s hardware proficiency meets India’s software efficiency

Balaji Viswanathan, one of the founders of Invento Robotics, told HT in China on Wednesday, “The (Mitra’s) computer-aided designing has been done in India. Its plastic mould is being made in a factory in Dongguan and the printed circuit boards and motor controls are being manufactured in Shenzhen (both cities in south China).”

Viswanathan was in the northeastern city of Dalian, considered one of the country’s leading IT centres, to attend the first India-China Dalian Internet of Things (IoT) Conference.

The company was launched last year by Viswanathan, Bharath Kumar and Mahalaksmi Radhakrishnan.

Mitra is one of the first prototypes, Viswanathan said. Mitra is designed to be an “indoor autonomous robot”, or a robot that can be deployed in locations such as offices, hospitals and even multiplex cinemas. It is capable of speech and face recognition and interactive gestures.

What are the advantages of sourcing equipment from China?

“The quality of assemblage is good and so is the speed of delivery (of products) in China,” said Viswanathan.

The Dalian meet was organised as a gateway for Chinese companies to find complementing Indian expertise – use China’s hardware proficiency with India’s efficiency in software.

It’s an example that companies from both countries could follow in future, Chinese and Indian businesspersons attending the conference said.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), India’s top trade body for IT-BPM, and the Dalian municipal government jointly organised the conference.

“It is about combining the two excellences,” Sudhanshu Pandey, joint secretary from the commerce ministry, said about the conference.

“India leads the world in software with a great foundation of IT and BPO services...We believe the conference co-organised by the two sides, serving as a platform for upgrading the industries of Dalian, will drive the integration of the advanced IT industry of India and the strong manufacturing industry of Dalian,” Dalian mayor Xiao Shengfeng told the Indian delegation.

Leading companies from India such as Wipro, Cognizant, Infosys and Genpact interacted with their China counterparts at the meet.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 12:11 IST