How I met Ira, HDFC Bank's first humanoid robot

Himali Patel recounts her first interaction with a banking humanoid robot at HDFC Bank
How I met Ira, HDFC Bank's first humanoid robot
How I met Ira, HDFC Bank's first humanoid robot

A perk with my job is the opportunity to explore new things. So, when I heard about HDFC Bank's humanoid, I was curious to go check it out. So, off I went to Kamala Mills to get my first hand experience with Ira, which looked straight of the Will Smith's I Robot.

 So, I met Ira, who was standing tall at the entrance of the branch and the moment I entered, it identified me as a customer by greeting me with a handshake saying, "I am Ira. Welcome to HDFC bank. May I please help you choose from the option on my screen?" The screen built in the centre of Ira's body flashed six options - cash withdrawal, fund transfer, fixed deposit, cash deposit, foreign exchange and loans.

 As soon as I pressed the button for cash withdrawal, Ira responded to it by saying, "You may proceed to counter 7 for cash withdrawal. Tap on the 'repeat' button if you would like to hear the directions again, or select the 'take me there' button so I can guide you there. The courteous humanoid then went on to mention: If you are done then please tap on the 'Thank you' button."

Above is the picture of Sonny, a robot from the movie : “I, Robot” who also appears to have emotions and dreams.

 In an attempt to imbibe the digital revolution, HDFC becomes India's first bank to introduce a humanoid which will help branch staff in servicing customers. Intelligent Robotic Assistant, Ira was as feasible as any other banking assistant. I met Ira a day after the Budget and it was love at first sight which forced me to rate Ira's service with five stars. Ira was introduced to the bank's customers on January 27, 2017 developed in partnership with Asimov Robotics, a start-up based in Kochi.

 I was exhilarated and wanted to explore more about Ira, so I pressed "Take me there" and then Ira started walking towards counter 7 and expected me to follow her. Once Ira reached the counter the screen flashed with another instruction, "Please rate my service, thank you have a good day". I couldn't resist and awarded full marks to Ira. And then she went back on her own to be positioned near the 'Welcome Desk' to greet customers and guide them to the relevant counter in the branch.

 Although project Ira is in its launch phase but has promising features. In the next phase, Ira is expected to get enhanced with features such as voice and face recognition for customer identification, Voice-guided navigation, Balance enquiry, and Cheque deposit among others. "We're excited to announce the deployment of our first humanoid, Ira in the Kamala Mills branch. Ira is quite unique and will serve as a technology demonstrator in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics," said, Nitin Chugh, Country Head, Digital Banking, HDFC Bank.

 If you think baking at the branch is boring, think twice - Ira could make it fund and who knows, next time she would know that I prefer my coffee with extra sugar and offer me the same while I go about with my banking chores.

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