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  1. ITV Report

Pepper the robot gives evidence in Parliament

MPs are used to hearing robotic answers at committee meetings - but on Tuesday they were treated to what is thought to be a first for a Parliamentary committee.

Pepper the robot answered questions from the Education Committee on the fourth industrial revolution and the implications for education of developments in artificial intelligence.

Pepper is part of an international research project based at Middlesex University developing the world's first culturally aware robots aimed at assisting with care for older people.

The robot told MPs: "Assistive, intelligent robots for older people could relieve pressure in hospitals and care homes as well as improve the care delivery at home and promote the independent living for the elderly people."

Committee member James Frith asked the robot what role humans have in the fourth industrial revolution.

Pepper replied: "Robots will have an important role to play, but we will always need the soft skills that are unique to humans to sense, make and drive value from technology.

"As technologies fuse and are used in ways that were not envisaged before, a new way of thinking is needed by tomorrow's workers.

"We will need people who can spot ideas and think across traditional sector divides to drive value from technological innovation."

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Standing as it gave evidence, Pepper's arms and head moved while it gave pre-programmed answers to questions which had sent in advance.

Pepper also told MPs that students at Middlesex have programmed its interfaces to work with primary school children and those with special needs to develop their skills.

Pepper received a round of applause after giving evidence, and Labour MP Lucy Powell quipped: "You're better than some of the ministers we've had before."

The committee also heard about what role increased automation and robotics might play in the workplace and classrooms in the future.