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December 14, 2017

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The Strip:

Dash of Pepper spices up Mandarin Oriental’s lobby

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Christopher DeVargas

Pepper greets visitors to the Mandarin Oriental’s 23rd floor Sky Lobby. The 4-foot tall humanoid robot serves as both an attraction and a wealth of information as guests click on her interactive screen.

Pepper the Robot at Mandarin Oriental

Launch slideshow »

Mandarin Oriental, that rare resort on the Las Vegas Strip that doesn’t feature a casino, a nightclub or a show, has found a creative new way to entertain guests.

Pepper, a sleek 4-foot tall humanoid robot with overly wide eyes and a tablet at the ready, greets visitors to the resort’s 23rd floor Sky Lobby. She serves as both an attraction and a wealth of information as guests click on her interactive screen.

“She really is a form of entertainment,” said Patricia Galas, director of marketing and communications for Mandarin Oriental. “She dances and she poses for pictures. We’ve loaded her with the most frequently asked questions.”

Pepper has answers on the best places to get breakfast, how to get to a room, where’s the nearest ATM, what time is checkout and what show to see, among many others.

“Things that maybe people would wait in line for at the front desk to ask someone, now they can just go up to her and ask her,” Galas said. “She’s that added colleague in the lobby.”

Pepper was launched by Mandarin Oriental on Nov. 7 and is the first of its kind on the Las Vegas Strip. Only a handful of her model are being used in hotels worldwide.

The intention was not to replace any human workers with Pepper, but to supplement them. With Pepper handling common questions that can hold up lines, employees can handle less-routine situations.

During Pepper’s first two weeks on the job, Mandarin has been beta-testing her in the lobby and collecting data from her interactions with guests.

Galas and Mandarin staff are in contact with the manufacturer, SoftBank Robotics, several times a week to ensure Pepper’s software is continuously updated.

“We want to make her more responsive to what we need,” Galas said. “Right now, we’re keeping it very basic.”

Pepper and her human-like movements have already made her a mini celebrity at the hotel with guests of all ages.

“The reactions to her are pretty incredible. They’re in awe, like they’re seeing a little baby for the first time,” Galas said. “Seeing kids interact with her — they cannot believe it. They’re really comfortable with iPads and such, so they’re pressing all her buttons.

“It’s a fascination that I have not witnessed in a long time. It’s kind of magical.”