India’s first banking humanoid makes debut in Chennai

city-union-bank-logoTaking artificial intelligence (AI) to a whole new level, India’s first banking robot Lakshmi has made a debut in Tamil Nadu. The robot is likely to be formally launched by the Kumbakonam-based City Union Bank on Monday.

Designed to be an on-site bank helper, it took researchers six months to develop Lakshmi. The robot is able to answer queries pertaining to account balance, interest rates on home loans, deferred payments or possible charges to be incurred on fixed deposit closure among more than 125 subjects intelligently.

“Apart from answering generic questions, we have also programmed it to connect to the core banking solution. If a customer wants to know his bank account details or transaction history, the robot can flash the answer on its display,” said N Kamakodi, MD and CEO, City Union Bank.

“Sensitive financial information like account details are displayed discreetly on the robot’s screen and not voiced. Lakshmi only talks out loud on generic subjects. If you visited our branch with your girlfriend, she won’t embarrass you by showing your low account balance,” Kamakodi further added.  

As per the company sources, Lakshmi currently speaks in English, gestures, turns around and engages in a very life-like manner in conversations. Unlike most robots her speech is not formal, but more relaxed and casual. Due to its artificial intelligence, the robot is constantly learning from customers – the more interactions it has with customers the better it gets.

“She then asks you to get in touch with the branch manager. But at the back-end, we will be collecting all the questions she was unable to answer and equip her with better data sets, so she can service customers. Today she can give real time updates of foreign exchange movement, current interest rates at banks for different asset classes like personal, educational, two-wheeler and home loans, possible charges on withdrawals or deposits. But going forward, she might be able to more than that,” said its assembler Vijay V Shah of Coimbatore-based Vishnu Engineering.

In the next few months, City Union will aim at programming the humanoid to greet customers in Tamil. “We are also looking at enabling it so that it can service visually challenged individuals. Worldwide very few banks employ robots at branches and we want to bring a whole new experience to India,” said CEO Kamakodi.

Currently, the bank has readied only one version of Lakshmi and has plans for 25-30 robots deployed at key branches by the end of the year if Lakshmi proves a hit with customers.

The bank was planning on Lakshmi’s debut on Thursday at its T. Nagar branch. But given the rush due to the demonetisation drive and customers thronging the branches for exchanging withdrawn notes, Lakshmi is likely to go public only on Monday.

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