Robots Are Coming to One of Southeast Asia's Largest Malls

(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines’ richest man Henry Sy will start rolling out robots next year to help customers navigate his massive shopping malls.

Initially three androids will be deployed in the first quarter of 2019 in SM Megamall, the nation’s second-biggest shopping center, said Steven Tan, chief operating officer for the shopping malls of SM Prime Holdings Inc. The talking bots will provide mall directions and information on promotions and events, Tan said.

Robots Are Coming to One of Southeast Asia's Largest Malls

Megamall, among the biggest in Southeast Asia, spans 477,000 square meters (5.1 million square feet) or an area equivalent to about 89 football fields, and serves about 277,000 people every day, according to data from SM. If the pilot is successful, the group will bring the robots to its biggest shopping center SM North Edsa and other major malls, Tan said.

“Customer service is at the core of everything that we do and we always aim to make the shopping experience fun and seamless,” Tan said.

SM’s three largest malls in the Philippines attract a daily foot traffic equivalent to 10 percent of Metro Manila’s 13 million population. SM’s 72 malls nationwide haul in more than 3.5 million customers each day.

Sy, who migrated from China’s Fujian province and built his wealth from a shoe store he opened in Manila in 1948, expanded into shopping malls in the 1980s to house his growing retail ventures. The robots will employ AI technologies to provide information to customers through an interactive, seamless and real-time platform, according to Cal-Comp Technology (Philippines), Inc., the provider and producer of the androids.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.