A robot designed to help with the grocery shopping is being tested at a Kyoto-area supermarket.

+ Video

The robotic assistant -- an advanced version of the Robovie-II android developed by Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) -- is the centerpiece of a networked system of robots, sensors and digital technology designed to make shopping more convenient and entertaining for the elderly. ATR is testing the experimental system at the Apita-Seikadai supermarket in Kyoto until March 2010.

To use the system, shoppers first create a shopping list at home using a special mobile device (they simply tell the robot's on-screen avatar what they want to buy before going to the supermarket). Later, when the customer arrives at the store, sensors automatically detect the mobile device. The user's data is wirelessly transmitted to a waiting robot, which greets the customer by name and says, "Let's start shopping."

In the video above, which shows part of a test conducted on December 10, the child-sized robot accompanies a 67-year-old woman while she shops for mandarin oranges and broccoli. In addition to carrying the woman's shopping basket, the robot reminds her to get the mandarin oranges, recommends the apples (which the robot says are delicious this season), reminds her to get the broccoli, and suggests including lettuce in her salad along with the broccoli. On several occasions, the robot remarks on how delicious the items look.

When asked her impression of the system after the demonstration, the woman said she felt almost as if she were shopping with her grandchild, and she said it was fun talking with the robot.

[Source: Robot Watch]