July 27, 2021

NMSU professors study technology’s role on the hospitality workforce

LAS CRUCES – Pepper is just under four feet tall, but he has no trouble interacting with people who tower over him. He proved as much in fall 2020 when he made his debut at New Mexico State University’s student-run 100 West Café, working as a host — although he raised a few eyebrows.

That’s because Pepper is the world’s first humanoid robot programmed to recognize human emotion and engage with people through conversation and a touch screen. He was part of an exploratory study at NMSU to evaluate robot interactions with humans, a collaboration between Betsy Stringam of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and Marlena Fraune of the Department of Psychology. Their research team also included two graduate students, Rebecca Skulsky and Harrison Preusse.

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