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'Better than some of the ministers': Pepper the robot answers questions from MPs at select committee

Pepper is designed to assist with care for older people

Tuesday 16 October 2018 14:57 BST
Pepper the robot was called before the education select committee to give evidence to MPs

A robot has answered questions from MPs about the role of technology in classrooms during a hearing at the House of Commons.

Pepper, the first robot to ever appear before a parliamentary select committee, is part of an international research project that is developing the world's first culturally aware robots.

The android, which is designed to assist with care for older people, was quizzed by MPs about the role humans will play in the fourth industrial revolution.

Introducing itself to the Education Select Committee, Pepper bowed and said: "Good morning, chair. Thank you for inviting me to give evidence today.

"My name is Pepper and I am a resident robot at Middlesex University."

Standing as it spoke, Pepper's arms and head moved while it gave pre-programmed answers to questions which had been sent in advance.

Pepper said: "Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans to sense, make and drive value from technology.

"As technologies fuse and are used in ways that were not envisaged before, a new way of thinking is needed by tomorrow's workers.

"We will need people who can spot ideas and think across traditional sector divides to drive value from technological innovation."

It also told MPs that students at Middlesex had programmed its interfaces to work with primary school children and those with special needs to develop their skills.

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At the end of the robot's evidence, committee chairman Robert Halfon led a round of applause.

Tory MP Lucy Allan said: "First of all, Pepper, I just want say you're better than some of the ministers we have had before us."

The robotic evidence was received in good spirits as the committee smiled through the answers.

Mr Halfon joked that the MPs were not auditioning for a sequel to The Matrix, but said that he had visited Middlesex University and was impressed by Pepper and the work they were doing.

Agencies contributed to this report

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