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The Smart Dubai Office (SDO) has partnered with regional technology business solutions provider Nearbuy to host a trial of the first 'robot receptionist' in the Middle East. Farah, which stands 1.50 metres tall, started work on November 26 at the Smart Dubai Office headquarters in the Dubai Design District.

The robot features a touch-screen panel where visitors to the office can check in automatically alerting the employee they are meeting of their arrival. The robot will then escort the guest to the meeting room, allowing them to settle in while waiting for their host to join them.

Farah, which means happiness in Arabic, was named following an internal competition conducted at Smart Dubai. It will be subject to a probation period of three months, like a human employee.

Its sophisticated programming means that it is capable of performing a range of other duties relevant to the traditional receptionist role, including taking guests' orders for tea, coffee and other beverages, which it can then transmit to the office pantry for fulfillment, as well as security screening and taking payment orders where needed.

Her Excellency Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai Office, welcomed her new team member, saying "Smart Dubai is delighted to host this ground-breaking experiment in artificial intelligence - the first of its kind in the region - at our offices."

She added, "Our objective is not to replace humans with robots, rather to understand where we can automate some repetitive administrative functions to allow us to invest in and create new types of sustainable employment opportunities for talented people."

"Farah the robot has not replaced any of our team members seeing as we already had a touch-screen reception facility. It is our hope that this three-month experiment will give us some great insights into the potential uses of applied artificial intelligence in our quest to make Dubai a world-leading smart city. We are also looking forward to sharing the insights with other partner government entities as we additionally seek to maximize the use of new technologies in the public sector."

Nicolas Standeart, CEO and founder of Nearbuy, which owns Farah, said: "As well as adding some fun to the workplace, robots are already providing invaluable, reliable and cost-effective business support to a number of companies globally."

Nicolas added, "As a UAE home-grown company that is pioneering tech-based business solutions internationally, we are delighted to be partnering with Smart Dubai to experiment with workplace-based artificial intelligence in this exciting city we intentionally chose as a home base for our global business. We have no doubt that the insights gained will go on to benefit many organizations in the region and further afield."

Developed in Germany, Werobots are the most advanced wayfinding robots developed to date. Nearbuy owns the exclusive license for Werobots in the Middle East and has seamlessly integrated the technology with its other platforms.

The home-grown company has developed world-leading digital tech-based solutions for public venues. Among the services the company offers to its business customers is tailored programming and leasing of robots, which can be utilized in a number of different functions, including information providing and wayfinding for visitors at airports, business districts, retail environments, events and corporate environments.

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