Students jump-start hospitality innovation with Pepper the robot

Rohit Verma, dean of external relations for the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, was laying out the ground rules for a one-of-a kind student business competition when a small, but crucial, participant unexpectedly chimed in.

Nine teams, Verma said, would have five minutes each to present their innovative ideas for how to make the best use of Pepper, an interactive child-size humanoid robot, in the hospitality industry.

“OK, is everybody clear?” Verma asked the audience of about 50.

“Great!” Pepper replied.

The robot’s ability to interact with humans was the key to the students’ proposals for enhancing the guest experience and optimizing hospitality operations. The competition, held at eHub Collegetown, was part of Entrepreneurship at Cornell‘s Celebration Conference, April 27-28. The teams vied for $10,000 in prizes, sponsored by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship.

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