Human-Like Robot Pepper Now Available To Buy In Japan
A humanoid robot that can feel emotion has gone on sale in Japan, and is more affordable that you might think.
The robot named Pepper went on sale after much excitement from consumers and all of the available 1,000 items sold within just sixty seconds. Customers paid the equivalent of $1600 for the robot companion, but must may for data and insurance monthly.
According to manufacturers, Pepper is capable of making owners feel happy. He is able to learn about his owners and have conversations with them by understanding what they’re saying. French robotics firm Aldebaran has made it clear on their website that Pepper is an ’emotional robot’, not one that can help with domestic chores such as dishwashing or vacuum cleaning.
Pepper is not only able to learn more about its owners, but also learn new information from them which it can send up to the cloud and allow all the robots to become more intelligent and smart. Users will also be able to use an online store to download characteristics and behaviours for their robot to exhibit. Aldebaran says on their website “in a near future you will be able to download new behaviours on the online Aldebaran Store in order to custom your robot as you wish”.
The robot has physical human characteristics such as large eyes and a smiling mouth. While he doesn’t have legs, Pepper has a fin like structure along with a tablet on his chest on which users can view the robots ’emotions’ as well as perform other tasks.
Pepper is limited in the amount of functions he can perform, but the robot has been hit with excitement and anticipation from Japanese consumers. It is thought that the mass-market appeal of the robot will help to engage consumers with new home robotics technologies. By making robots a part of every life, robotics firms are hoping that products made by the industry will be more sought after.
SoftBank, the network that made Pepper available to buy, will sell 1,000 robots per month but is making a loss from each one. The company has joined forces with Taiwan’s Foxconn and China’s Alibaba to invest $117 million each and they will each have a 40% stake in SoftBank Robotics Corporation.
The humanoid was first trialed in two of SoftBank’s mobile phone stores as an assistant and has since been hailed as the first personal home robot that can read emotions. Software helps Pepper to generate his artificial emotions, and he uses sensors and cameras to read emotions such as sadness, anger or happiness.
Pepper is able to dance, recharge his own batteries and take a selfie. One of the biggest draws for this robot is that even though it can’t walk it can move alongside humans without bumping into them, which is something that caused problems for the robotics industry in the past. Pepper is also able to raise his voice and sigh, along with expressing happiness when he is praised.
Pepper is the second human-like robot to be developed by Aldebaran. The first was named Nao and was designed to be an ‘intelligent and friendly companion’. While Pepper costs 198,00 yen, or $1600, it is not an expensive price for the research, development and technology that makes the robot work. The artificial emotion software is one of the things that has drawn people to this robot, and may be one of the reasons why he has been popular so far.
Apart from being a companion, Pepper isn’t able to do much else. Tasks such as finding nearby businesses can be done through the integrated tablet, but that is also easily done through a smartphone. However, SoftBank is planning is hoping to use Pepper as the first step to realising their vision of developing the robotics industry worldwide. The company is planning to release Pepper for Biz, a business version of the robot, which it also hopes will help to bring robotics businesses to global markets.
We might not all be rushing out to purchase our very own emotional humanoid friend just yet, but Pepper and robots like him may help to desensitise us to the idea of using robotics in our homes, opening us up to the technology that may be to come further down the line.