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SoftBank’s newest robot Pepper launched in the Japanese market last week. The autonomous bot is the first ever robot to read human emotions and its developers hope Pepper is the first of a new robot “species.”  (via Aldebaran)

The first real robot friend? Are they cool? SoftBank’s robot Pepper entered the Japanese market recently. The interactive robot is autonomous and programmed to simulate the role of a human companion. It is the first robot to discern human emotion and is part of SoftBank’s larger dream to build a world where humans and robots live side-by-side, interdependently.


Pepper is a four-foot-tall robot on wheels that was built to befriend man. The humanoid has human-like features, including large, round “eyes” and an orange-slice smile and can interpret the emotions of those it interacts with. Pepper is programmed to use body language, tone of voice and more to identify its companion’s mood and respond appropriately.


Pepper is the first market-launched robot to attempt to analyze human emotions. Its goal is to ensure the happiness of its companion, and over time it will grow and develop a “personality” that is comprised of the way its been treated and the needs of its human counterpart. If someone is crying, has slumped shoulders or frowning for example, Pepper will assume that person is sad, and will attempt to cheer him up. This can include playing his favorite song, telling a joke, making conversation and more.


SoftBank’s lips are sealed on the tech specs of Pepper. It is known that the humanoid carries a 10.1 inch touch-screen tablet on its chest that displays its mood, images and content. It’s packed with motors for mobility and loads of sensors that include hand sensors for “touch” and body language sensors, among others. It can run for 12 hours per battery charge and will act as a photographer when it feels its companion is experiences higher emotional levels than usual.


While SoftBank isn’t spilling the beans about how Pepper was born, it can be assumed that the real secret of the robot involves its programming. Building a robot that can accurately detect sadness and respond as a friend is impressive, to say the least. It can be used in a number of arenas, including home therapy and with medical patients who may need social interaction. SoftBank says the robot was built to give love.


Pepper retails at $1600 and requires monthly subscriptions for both software and insurance. It can also be rented at $12 per hour. The humanoid is only available for commercial locations in Japan now, but SoftBank hopes to have one in each home one day, with consumer sales said to begin next month. SoftBank hopes robots grow into a companion “species” for humans. It hopes Pepper is a first step towards the realization of the dream.


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