What’s missing in the human / robot experience? Emotion. Japan’s billionare Masayoshi Son, founder has an answer that may make people smile. Robots that sense emotion.

softbank Pepper robot

Meet “Pepper” who senses emotion in voice on on your face

Son’s mobile phone company, Softbank Corp (OTCMKTS:SFTBF) (TYO:9984), introduced today a robot named “Pepper” that will go on sale February 2015 that can recognize the emotions of people around it through facial expressions and voice intonations.  The starting price for the robot will be $1,900.

“Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile,” Son said.

The Japanese billionaire’s dream is to move into the personal robot business he said in a press preview where he reached out and touched the robotic Pepper in a “E.T.” like moment, according to an AP report.

Emotional robot with soft, attractive curves

With soft, curved contours and wide eyes, the emotional robot doesn’t have legs but rather a singular shape drapes over the lower body of the robot like a long dress, except underneath this Robot are small wheels that help it motor around the house and a computer display across its chest to make the experience efficient as well as entertaining.

In addition to being loaded with voice recognition software, Pepper is designed to be a sensitive individual. The robot has more than a dozen sensors, two touch sensors in the hand, three touch sensors on its head, six laser sensors for sight and three bumper sensors at its base, on the edge of the wheel frame. The robot has two cameras and four microphones and is equipped with Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking features.

Opportunity robots offer to displace human workers

Robots have been a particular interest in Japan, as US President Barack Obama recently visited the Asian nation to play soccer with one, as previously reported on ValueWalk.

Various Japanese firms have tried to bring affordable robots to the Japanese masses and failed. Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:HMC) (TYO:7267), for instance, developed a computerized dog that walks and talks but it remains too sophisticated – and expensive – for average consumer use.  In fact, Honda only uses the robot for showrooms and parties, and even then it is prone to glitches due to complexity, the report noted.  While firms such as electronics giant Sony Corp (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) ended their robot program, the Aibo pet dog, other firms persist. Many Japanese companies large and small, including Hitachi, Ltd. (ADR) (OTCMKTS:HTHIY) (TYO:6501) and Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) (TYO:7203), along with various universities and startups, have developed a variety of robots to not only entertain, but perform mechanical tasks in a corporation.

Potential growing as robots “want to be loved”

The potential for robotic solutions is growing in Japan, as the potential for elderly care is expected to soar in coming years as an abnormally large percentage of the population retires.

“I want to be loved,” Pepper sang as the presentation marked yet another milestone in the advance of machines to become lovable objects.