The robots, developed by the Chinese tech company Baidu, specialize in understanding human speech. They are largely stationary, with only their bodies turning and heads moving when interacting with a customer.
And the robots can’t physically take cash or a credit card from the hand of a customer. When a customer wants to pay, the robot displays a QR code that the customer scans with a mobile payment app to complete the transaction.
So far KFC said the reaction from customers has been enormously positive. It sees the robots as a way to engage with young, tech-savvy customers. The concept store also includes tables capable of wirelessly charging cellphones.
KFC has not yet decided if it will install the robots in other locations. The concept store opened in late April.
Baidu, the maker of the robots, launched them in September of last year. The robots are another reminder of companies’ interest in developing automated personal assistants that can chat with consumers and replace some roles traditionally played by humans. While some fast-food chains have used self-checkout kiosks in which a customer punches in their order on a screen, the KFC system relies on being able to understand what a customer is saying. The voice technology behind the robot — called Du Mi — is also used in Baidu’s mobile search app.