Planet Business

The pounded pound, endearing robots, a ‘Czexit’ and odd interview questions

Image of the week: Robot Congress

"Who me?" he seems to say. The "endearing" Nao-model robots, manufactured by French robotics company Aldebaran and powered by IBM's Watson technology, are definitely in our top 10 favourite robots. This Nao brought his Gallic shrug to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week. At just 58cm in height and intended as "a friendly companion around the house", Nao is like a little baby robot compared to Aldebaran's taller Pepper robot and "Daddy" robot Romeo, the "daily helper". Alas, only "emotional companion" Pepper is currently on sale to private individuals – and only if you live in Japan. (Photograph: Pau Barrena / Bloomberg)

In numbers: The pounded pound


Pound sterling slipped to this level on currency markets on Wednesday, hitting a seven-year low, as a poll showed the gap between support for an “in” vote and an “out” vote had narrowed.

20 Possible percentage decline in the pound were Britain to go ahead with a "Brexit" after its June referendum, say both Goldman Sachs and HSBC, with the latter using the word "collapse".


31 If the UK left the EU, economists forecast that the pound would weaken to a level not seen in this number of years. But it's still a big "if".

The lexicon: Czexit

A "Czexit" is what might happen if there's a "Brexit" and it turns out to be contagious. Bohuslav Sobotka, prime minister of the Czech Republic, says the country could follow Britain out of the European Union: "If Britain leaves the EU, we can expect debates about leaving the EU in a few years too." Some 62 per cent of Czechs recently told the polling agency Stem that if they had the chance again – and the Czech Republic only entered the EU in 2004 – they wouldn't join it. The alternative is a return to the Russian sphere of influence, which Sobotka is not keen on. A "Czexit", he told the CTK news agency, "would be an absolute negation" of everything that's happened since the fall of communism in 1989, and extremist groups in the Czech Republic would take up the theme.

Getting to know Renato Bialetti

It is, alas, too late to get to know Italian entrepreneur Renato Bialetti who has died at the age of 93, but it's not too late to appreciate his fine work. In 1933, Alfonso Bialetti created the Moka Express (inset), an octagonal aluminium Art Deco-influenced coffee pot. When Renato, his son, took over the running of the company after the war, he advertised the coffee percolator on Milanese billboards, then in the press, on radio and, eventually, on television. The stylish Moka soon became a housewives' favourite, prompting a home brewing revolution across Italy – more than 90 per cent of Italian households are estimated to own one. Renato's children have naturally honoured his memory by placing his ashes in a model of the Moka.

The list: Impossible interview questions

It’s a tough life being an interviewer: For a start, you have to be able to maintain eye contact with interviewees while asking ridiculous questions like these (most of which are culled from Glassdoor, aka the “TripAdvisor for the workplace”).

Airbnb: “What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash?” (Write a best-selling memoir.)

Starbucks: "If you were an inanimate object, which inanimate object would you be?" (A scarf.)

Stanford University: “Who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman?” (The patriarchy.)

Google: "If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?" (Leave Right Now by Will Young.)

Facebook: "On your very best day at work – the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world – what did you do that day?" (Laughed.)