If you ever visit Japan and happen to go shopping, just watch out for the latest creepy robot specially designed to bother you while you're browsing the country's many malls.

The system from Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International combines a network of cameras and sensors with a wheeled robotic assistant that is currently on trial at the Universal Citywalk complex in Osaka.

Pursuit of happiness

Instead of hiring staff to help bemused shoppers - "Who am I, why am I here, do I really need another one of those things?" - shopping mall managers are supposed to use the robot to guide patrons into shops and, presumably, to help them spend money.

The system works out who's baffled by the whole retail experience by using the cameras to track everyone in the mall. It passes the information to the android, which then analyses movement patterns to spot people who aren't shopping 'properly'.

Should a loitering body be found, the machine sidles up to them and suggests they visit certain shops or, we expect, that they might like to take their business elsewhere.