Personalized robots designed to live with humans and experience their everyday lives will be on the market as soon as next year. Pepper, the name of the humanoid robot, is the new creation of Soft Bank Corporation’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, and the French robotics company Aldebaran. Pepper is unlike any other as he is a robot that can read people’s emotions.
This particular robot is equipped with sensors in its hands and on its head, in addition to multiple cameras and microphones on its face. It has a cloud-based software that allows it to study people’s expressions and tones of voice to know how they are feeling. Pepper also has WIFI capabilities and has a touch screen on its chest similar to a tablet. The robot is 48 inches tall and has a voice pitched to resemble a small boy. Pepper does not have feet. He sits on wheels at its base and has bumper sensors. This robot is battery-operated with up to 12 hours of battery life.
Masayoshi Son introduced Pepper at an afternoon news conference, on June 5, in Tokyo. The event started with a darkened room, and then a light revealed the robot. As Son approached Pepper, he gave him a heart-shaped object, which Pepper put close to its touch screen, to reveal a pulsing heart. Pepper interacted with Son and the chief executive of Aldebaran robotics, Bruno Maisonnier, and posed for the cameras. To show the robot’s capabilities, Son asked him questions, and Pepper was able to answer most of them. The robot even sang, I Want to Be Loved at this demonstration and interacted with journalists at the conference.
Soft Bank’s CEO said that Pepper robots will be for sale starting on February of 2015 in Japan. However, the purchase date of the robots in other countries has not been set yet. The price for the charismatic Pepper will be less than $2,000, but this will only be the starting price. Son predicts to make profits with applications and software updates, and maybe even a subscription-based program for the animated robots. As of now, Son’s main purpose for this robot is to make people happy. According to PC World, Son said in a press conference that they “want to have a robot that will maximize people’s joy and minimize their sadness.” Pepper will make his first appearance at two Soft Bank’s mobile stores this Friday in Japan, where he will greet and attend to customers.
Pepper is a dream come true for Masayoshi Son. His inspiration came from Astro Boy, a science fiction robot in a movie of the 1950s. Son’s vision for Pepper is to become such an intelligent robot that can read people’s emotions flawlessly and take action just like a human would. As of now, Pepper can dance and tell jokes. He can also speak in Spanish, French, English and Japanese. His artificial intelligence-based software allows him to study people’s emotions, and this will make him a friendly companion that soon many will be able to have in their homes.
By Marcia Villavicencio