A new robot capable of recognizing human emotions and responding in kind is being launched in Japan.
Manufacturers Softbank revealed the robot to assembled media and guests in Tokyo. Pepper, as the robot is known, has a hairless head, moving arms, no legs and moves around a set of wheels, according to The Irish Examiner.
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Pepper the robot to be sold around the world
After a year of software development, Pepper was brought onto a stage, where it danced, sang and spoke with guests, while appearing to react with joy when it was shown affection.
Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank Corp, said that the company had partnerships in place with Alibaba Group and Foxconn in preparation for a global sales launch. The robot costs $1,600 in Japan, and 1,000 robots will be available every month. There is a monthly service fee of $120 and maintenance insurance will cost owners $80.
It has not been confirmed when and where the robot will be sold outside of its home market, but it is thought that sales will start next year.
Mr. Son says that the robot will develop its own personality based on the interactions it has with people. Pepper is capable of recognizing faces and is happy to receive attention, although it will become depressed if it is ignored. Should its owner be sad, Pepper will try and cheer them up.
From robot with love
Pepper was inspired by Mr. Son’s memories of Astro Boy, a popular Japanese character which had no human empathy because it had no heart. On the other hand, Pepper is programmed to display emotions. Artificial intelligence technology from IBM is used to create a number of effects, such as the lights which create the illusion of tears in its round eyes, for example.
Some commentators are troubled by the idea of robots which have human traits, a fact which Mr. Son has acknowledged. However he maintains that the technology could prove to be transformative.
Mr. Son told the crowd that robots currently undertake a huge number of manufacturing tasks, but what the world needs is love. “Our vision is to offer a robot with love,” he said.
Pepper records video of its owner, and especially moments of elevated emotional arousal like happiness or surprise. Mr. Son believes the footage could be used to show at weddings or other family events.