Conversation Design for NISKA Retail Robotics









At Avion, we’re passionate about emerging technologies. So when we were approached by NISKA Retail Robotics to help them craft the dialogue for an ice cream-selling robot, needless to say we were on board.

Pepper is a humanoid robot created by Japanese company SoftBank Robotics. NISKA Retail Robotics wanted to use Pepper to create a truly unique ice cream store experience; one where customers could interact with and get help from a friendly robot as they ordered their frozen favourites.

Because of our experience in conversational design and emerging technologies, NISKA reached out to us to write a bunch of potential questions customers might ask, plus the responses Pepper would give back.


It takes a lot of time and testing to map out the potential journeys people might take when they interact with a robot. That’s why it was important for us to collaborate with a number of different teams, including Special Patterns. In partnership with NISKA, they were in charge of programming Pepper and the other robots used in the ice cream store (specifically, two non-social robots who make the order once it’s been put through). We had several workshops with them to make sure the dialogues we wrote would be achievable and complement the customer experience.

We also used research from the Innovation and Enterprise Research Lab at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). Our contact there was able to give us plenty of insight into the ways in which people typically interacted with humanoid robots. This really informed the way we thought about the different kinds of questions we should program Pepper to be able to understand, as well as the tone, content and style in which responses would need to be written.

All of this information was used to map out more than 450 possible questions that customers might ask, and 247 potential responses that Pepper could give. Of course, that could include variations of the same question—for example, “how are you?” and “how are you going?”—to take into account the varied spectrum of human language that a robot might encounter out there in the real world.


After extensive research and testing, we were able to come up with a solid foundation of conversational skills for Pepper to use with customers. We’re excited to announce the ice cream store opened today 17 September 2019 in Federation Square—a tourist hotspot in Melbourne where hundreds of customers will be able to enjoy a chat with Pepper (plus some delicious ice cream, of course).

A big aspect of conversation design is using dynamic data to improve the ways in which your robot, chatbot, or other AI platform is able to respond to people as they interact with it. We’re looking forward to continuing our work with NISKA and improving Pepper’s vocabulary even further.

For more information, check out our blog on humanoid robots and natural language programming.

> Visit the NISKA Retail Robotics website

“We had a fantastic experience working with Natalie and Melinda on our robotic project! The case studies and thorough dialogue flow developed by the Avion team for the social robot was perfect. Thank you Avion Team!”

Kate Orlova - CEO & Co founder