For the next week, you can get a glimpse of retailing's possible future at B8ta, a small consumer electronics store here. At B8ta's downtown shop, you'll find Pepper, a robot that looks and kind of acts like a young child -- if that kid were made of shiny, white plastic. SoftBank Robotics, an arm of the Japanese technology conglomerate, designed Pepper to interact with people in homes and in the businesses they visit, answering questions and offering directions and advice. SoftBank started offering consumers a demonstration of Pepper at B8ta on Thursday. "Pepper is designed to engage with you," said Steve Carlin, vice president of marketing and business development for SoftBank Robotics America.