Operator of the Santouka Ramen restaurant chain in the US, Plenty USA, Inc. is scheduled to launch a version of Japan-made AI communication robot SOTA on April 15, 2018. The North American launch of SOTA will be at JUNKICHI, a restaurant in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. An earlier version of the robot has been in use at the Santouka Ramen restaurant in University Village.
Developed to be able to recognize faces, help customers, and make sure communication with the servers goes smoothly, the robot will be placed atop tables. A camera in SOTA's head connects images to Microsoft Azure's FaceAPI service to allow the robot to recognize faces, allowing it to adapt to repeat customers. Guests can also use a smartphone app to make the unit speak. It has many prepared lines, but can be told to say all sorts of things via Microsoft Azure's Text to Speech service, meaning SOTA can have guided conversations in real time.
Reportedly, SOTA is a fixture at a Japanese izakaya restaurant reporting a 10% jump in sales since it started using SOTA.