KATHMANDU, Sept 25: We have reached a time when manual labor is gradually being replaced with digital resources. Banking is one of the industries that undergoes numerous transactions and requires proper data storage. The younger generations of people have adapted technology in various sectors of their lives, banking being one of those sectors, while the older generations have shown some level of reluctance to adapt it completely.
Nepal SBI Bank has been operating since 1993. According to Bigyan Adhikari, head of management information system department at the Bank, they wanted to create a one-stop digital banking solution in Nepal and were exploring the possibility in robotics and Artificial Intelligence. In an attempt for the same, they opened a new branch—Nepal SBI InTouch—in Durbarmarg, where only cashless transactions are held.
With this vision, the Bank had approached the Robotics Club of Pulchowk Engineering Campus (PEC) and got in contact of Paaila Technology. Paaila Technology was established in December 12, 2016, with six people, who aimed at bringing changes in the sector of automation and robotics.
After graduating from the PEC, five friends of 2016 batch — Dipkamal Bhusal, Niraj Basnet, Rabin Giri, Sagar Shrestha and Wasim Akram Khan—with Binay Raut’s help started the company and were working on technologies to regulate water supply at houses.
Paaila was only starting its journey, while the founders had not thought of involving in robotics any time soon. But when good things happen, they happen unexpectedly. You might plan for years and still not achieve what you wanted, while on the other hand, sometimes opportunities suddenly come knocking on your door.
Paaila took the opportunity and started their research. From design to 2D modelling, software to outlook of the robot, they developed a new robotic prototype from scratch and that too within a one-month-and-a-half. They named the robot Pari. Even after the robot was completed, they made several changes and updated some frequently asked questions (FAQ) in Pari’s system.
“At first, Nepal SBI Bank only wanted a robot to greet the customers. But, we later decided to update the female voice and make it more interactive for the customers with the FAQs,” informed Dipkamal. They launched Pari on July 7, 2016, coinciding with the SBI’s new branch opening.
Pari is a stationery robot, which has an in-built motion sensor and two in-built computers. Another sensor is attached to the doors and is connected to Pari through Wi-Fi. As soon as you enter the Bank, the sensors alert Pari and she greets you ‘welcome’. Pari can move her head and hands and seems like blinking.
Once you get closer, she also asks you a question ‘How can I help you?’ You can choose what you need help with in a screen fitted in Pari’s chest. One can choose to communicate in English or in Nepali. She serves as an information desk to those who require help with banking transactions. She also bids you ‘goodbye’ as you exit the branch.
“We only have two human resources at the branch. Pari has helped our staff and the customers in many transactions and we have noticed that customers love interacting with Pari,” added Bigyan.
Paaila is now working on a better version of Pari (Pari 2.0) for SBI and similar AIs for other banks, restaurants and offices they are yet to collaborate with. Pari for now is stationery, but the developers aim to upgrade the model so that the navigation and interaction is better with better efficiency.
They are currently working on the design and 3D modelling with better management of compartments inside the body. Future Pari might even have a facial recognition feature, exhibit human like gestures and two-way speech features for better customer experience.
Paaila’s founders believe the market is new in Nepal and there is much more to explore. They aim to further extend their reach to the South Asian region as the region has yet to make any prominent advancement in this sector.