NMSU professors study technology’s role on the hospitality workforce

Betsy Stringam (right), professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism management at New Mexico State University, talks to the robot Pepper while PhD students Rebecca Skulsky (left) and Harrison Preusse observe the interaction.

LAS CRUCES – Pepper is six feet tall, but he has no problem interacting with people towering over him. He proved that in the fall of 2020 when he made his debut as a host at New Mexico State University’s student-run 100 West Café – although he raised a few eyebrows.

That’s because Pepper is the world’s first humanoid robot programmed to recognize human emotions and interact with people through conversation and a touchscreen. He was part of an exploratory study at NMSU evaluating robotic interactions with humans, a collaboration between Betsy Stringam from the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and Marlena Fraune from the Department of Psychology. Her research team also included two PhD students, Rebecca Skulsky and Harrison Preusse.