Pepper, the first humanoid robot with emotions, at a press conference in Tokyo. (via Softbank)
Holy moly! Your next hospital nurse could be a robot! Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank, has announced the first humanoid robot with an emotional engine intended for personal use. At a press conference in Tokyo, Pepper introduced itself to the public speaking Japanese and mimicking Japanese gestures.
Pepper is 4-feet tall and has fully functional, life-like arms and fingers. It also has a tablet on its chest which works as a display. It can also move its chest, head, and eyes in a lifelike manner; following you with its eyes and peering up at you when you talk to it. It is not a bipedal robot, so it just has a stylistic podium for legs with wheels on the bottom. Nonetheless, it seems pretty impressive.
The robot is supposed to have a separate, emotional AI cloud drive that allows it to perceive and learn emotions and natural human behavior (hopefully it isn't capturing footage of you while you sleep and uploading it somewhere). Right now, one of SoftBank's stores in Omotesando (a tree-lined avenue located in the Shibuya and Minato sections of Tokyo) has a few Pepper robots 'staffing' the store. However, Verge writer Sam Byford notes that the Pepper robots are just for show at the moment and need much improvement on the AI cloud capability. The robots seem to have tons of preprogrammed sales lines, as they try to shift stock in the store and dazzles spectators with its library of songs and dances created by Yoshimoto Kogyo.
The AI component is hoping to improve onthefly, once Pepper because a part of Japanese families and has a chance to learn from humans and share that knowledge via the AI cloud with other Pepper robots. Pepper is supposed to be able to help with babysitting and staffing stores, and Softbank eventually wants to make robots that care for the sick and the elderly.
Pepper will be released for sale in February 2015 and will cost around $1930 for the base unit. What is the base unit? Well... nobody really knows but hopefully it is comprised of a fully functional robot. While Pepper is not perfect, it marks a leap forward in robotics. Perhaps in the next 5 years everyone will own a robot butler.
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