Auto Tech

Hyundai rolls out friendly robot for dealerships to help shoppers, encourage mask wearing

DAL-e is now in a pilot trial in Hyundai's home country of South Korea, but it's unclear if the US will get a chance to experience the little dude.

He looks nice.

Hyundai hopes you'll welcome our new robot overlords... because they're super cute. DAL-e is the automaker's new customer service robot helper shown off on Monday and now in a pilot trial in South Korea. The automaker said it can help those kicking the tires on a new Hyundai or Kia with a bunch of customer service activities. And, it will even encourage shoppers to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic.

DAL-e boasts the ability to recognize faces and understands various languages. Hyundai said as customers continue to dabble with contact-free car purchases, DAL-e can play an essential role without trading off all personal interaction. 

"Our objective is to enable the DAL-e to engage in a smooth and entertaining communication with customers and present valuable services to them," said Dong Jin Hyun, head of the robotics lab at Hyundai Motor Group.

Although the company didn't provide video footage of DAL-e in action, the automaker said it's capable of engaging with customers in smooth dialog to present vehicle information, guide shoppers to the right area of a dealership and includes a touchscreen to present the information they request. DAL-e also connects to a large screen housed in the dealership and can beam information so a shopper can see that information more clearly. Or, someone can take a photo with the robotic dude and DAL-e will be happy to show it off on the same screen. Hyundai said it's supposed to be an entertaining and informative experience.

But, DAL-e has some rules. If a customer enters a dealership without wearing a mask, the robot will "advise the customer to wear one." It sounds like it'll be a gentle nudge, but still, it will encourage shoppers to stay safe.

The automaker is showing a newfound passion for robotics, having spent nearly $1 billion buying a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics late last year. You might recall Boston Dynamics' most famous product, Spot the eerie robot dog. Spot and DAL-e, best robofriends? We can only hope.

Hyundai didn't immediately respond when asked if we'll see DAL-e in the US, but the automaker said in its announcement the robot will be continuously updated and expand beyond its trial in the future. I didn't have "car shopping with robots" on my 2021 bingo card, but here we are.

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