We knew they were coming, and now robots that can read and interpret emotions have finally arrived.
Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) and Aldebaran Robotics unveiled a new humanoid robot that can read emotions at a media event on Thursday in Urayasu, Japan. The robot, which mobile carrier Softbank calls Pepper, is the first of its kind that uses proprietary algorithms to respond to the environment and emotions it detects.
Combining voice recognition with emotion detection, Pepper is able to analyze expressions and voice tones, allowing it to communicate with people in a natural way.
Visitors to Softbank's Omotesando and Ginza stores in Tokyo got their first encounter with Pepper on Friday, interacting with the robot and carrying on conversations. Softbank intends to roll out more humanoid robots to its stores, using them to interact with customers and perform market research, reported the AFP.
Standing at nearly 4 feet tall with a 10.1-inch touch display on its front, Softbank’s Pepper can make jokes, dance and even move around an environment on rollers. Coupled with proprietary joints, Pepper is also able to articulate its arms and torso to provide a wider array of responses.
In addition to the number of responses currently built into Pepper, Softbank also plans to open up the humanoid robot to third-party software development. According to Softbank, Aldebaran will release a software development kit (SDK) with the launch of Pepper with more technical details to follow later at a tech festival in September 2014 in Tokyo.
“Since [the company's founding], we have followed our corporate philosophy of ‘Information Revolution -- Happiness for everyone.’ To realize our vision, we have made a new entry into the robot business with the aim of developing affectionate robots that make people smile,” Softbank Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son said.
Softbank has a deal with Foxconn to produce the new robots for a February 2015 retail launch in Japan, with the price expected to be in 198,000 Japanese yen ($1,930). But consumers looking to get a firsthand experience can do so now at Softbank’s Omotesando and Ginza stores.