Mitra, an indigenous robot developed by Bengaluru-based start-up, walked up to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Ivanka Trump, First Daughter and advisor to the President of the United States Donald Trump, at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) opening in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
Mitra — Not Perfect, But Getting There
The Government of India showcased its cutting edge technology by presinting Mitra the robot, which goes with the Modi government’s aggressive ‘Make In India’ agenda. Created by a Bengaluru-based start-up Invento Robotics, Mitra was programmed to welcome PM Modi and Trump with their names on pressing the flags.
But reportedly, when Modi was first requested to press Indian flag, Ivanka also ended up pressing the US flag simultaneously. The robot then could not not perform its function properly and the name of only Narendra Modi could be heard. But after a few awkward minutes, they tried again by pressing the button one by one, and successfully registered the device.
Meet The Creators Of Mitra
Invento Robotics was founded by Balaji Vishwanathan, Mahalakshmi Radhakrushnan, and Bharath Kumar in October 2016. Vishwanathan, who explained in a newspaper interview that they evolved from the education sector to robotics sector to help people work smarter, said:
“What Google does for the online world, we do for the offline world. The robot speaks to the customers, gets to know them and their preferences, and on subsequent visits makes contextual suggestions. Mitra can help businesses do better customer targeting. For instance, in supermarkets, Mitra is capable of collecting relevant data on your first visit and not only make suggestions on your corresponding visits, but also take you to that particular aisle.”
From Entertainment To Privacy
The five-feet tall robot can be found floating in the corridors of the Canara Bank and PVR Cinemas in Bengaluru, chatting with the customers and making them feel welcome. In fact, Mitra is equipped with high end facial recognition software, converses in natural human voice and has autonomous navigation.
Speaking on the privacy issues involved in allowing access to details of bank customers to a robot, Kaundinya Panyam, who oversees the company’s business development, said, “Mitra is similar to what an ATM does. It tells you your account details, asks you to link your Aadhaar to the bank account. It does everything an ATM does.”
According to the robot’s official website, the robot is as handy in the service sector as it is as a host. In fact, one can rent the robot for any party. Their official website describes Mitra as:
“Mitra can be your party photographer, an intelligent DJ, an entertainer, a live tweeter. World’s top corporations use Mitra for their events and so do high end weddings and birthdays.”
Not Exactly A Trailblazer
However, Mitra is not a first of its kind. Pepper, which is used in over 140 SoftBank Mobile stores in Japan to welcome and interact with customers, is one of its predecessors. In fact, in 2016 in India, Lakshmi, an Artificial Intelligence-powered robot had made its debut on the big stage at the City Union Bank based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Meanwhile at the GES summit, both the Prime Minister and Ivanka walked through the lobbies where the organisers had displayed few selected products and installed big screens highlighting India’s achievements in different fields.
Trump also held talks with PM Modi, and Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. Later she toured the conference centre and met a few entrepreneurs, before watching traditional Indian dance performances in the inaugural session.
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Prajakta is a Writer/Editor/Social Media diva. Lover of all that is 'quaint', her favourite things include dogs, Starbucks, butter popcorn, Jane Austen novels and neo-noir films. She has previously worked for HuffPost, CNN IBN, The Indian Express and Bose.