SoftBank - Humanoid Robot "Pepper" with Artificial Intelligence out for sale in 2015

In 2015, you could become best friends with an amiable and attentive humanoid robot, like the relationship of Nobita and Doraemon (minus the Yojigen-poket)!

SoftBank's CEO Masayoshi Son proudly unveiled their humanoid robot with artificial intelligence (AI) named Pepper today. The French robot developing company, Aldebaran Robotics, acquired by SoftBank in 2012 and part of the 'Softbank Group,' has developed Pepper for 2 years.

More surprisingly, it will be released to the public for ¥198,000 (which is equivalent to USD 2,000) in February 2015. We will be able to have our own personal humanoid robot at home for a very reasonable amount of money.

As CEO Son started his presentation with the sentence: "Today is a day of giving emotions to a robot for the first time in human history", Pepper is the world's first robot with an emotional recognition ability.

During the CEO's presentation, we witnessed the conversation between CEO Son and Pepper. It showed very well how natural the robot and human can interact. Pepper even made the audience laugh quite often:

Son: You are capable of recognizing human emotions for the first time in robot history, aren't you?

Pepper: Don't raise the bar, president. I cannot handle the pressure well. When I get broken, you should expect that I was crushed by expectations. Everyone, please write in an article that Pepper is not good under pressure.

Complete Event Gallery Here

Pepper is a 120cm tall humanoid robot. Although he is not a robot walking with two legs, he moves on a leg with wheels. He holds a display that looks like an iPad on his chest. In addition to his emotion recognition ability, there is a distance recognition function using infrared ray and a direction recognition function using a microphone.

Pepper quantifies human's emotions such as happiness or sadness and learns what is good or bad. For example, he will know that it's a good thing when someone is thankful to him or it's a bad thing when someone is unhappy with him. These quantified emotions are accumulated in the Cloud and he improves with this collective knowledge at an accelerated pace.

In addition to interaction with the CEO and the guests from the SoftBank commercials who appeared on the stage, Pepper gave a performance of his amazing skills like shooting photos, auditioning people, humming, rapping and a body-waving move.

Complete Event Gallery Here

The life of Pepper's battery is around 12 hours. This is a major improvement over existing bipedal robots, which, according to CEO Son, are capable of running only for 30 minutes to one hour.

Here's the rapping Pepper

The Chinese company, Foxconn, well-known as a manufacturer of iPhone and iPad, will play a role in the production process for Pepper.

Pepper also has an ability to install applications that external developers build. SoftBank is planning to hold a conference for developers sometime in September and provide an SDK (Software Development Kit).

How Pepper acted today was based on a scenario assigned by an application installed in advance. It's a bit disappointing to hear that after I was so thrilled by watching Pepper seemingly free-communicating. But, CEO Son said that Pepper will be capable of establishing 70-80% of a natural conversation.

Two days ago, Softbank sent out an invitation for today's event, which took place at the Maihama Amphitheater in Chiba, and the invitation had minimal information about what we could expect. In fact, there was a rumor that they might talk about their entry into the robot business, but who could imagine they would impress so many of us with this adorable and smart humanoid robot? It is certain that SoftBank is getting into some very advanced business and technology, and we haven't seen anything like this from the 2 other major Japanese telecommunications carriers, NTT docomo and au by KDDI.

Pepper will start working as one of the staff at both the SoftBank Ginza store and Omotesando store on June 6. He is a pretty interesting guy. You should meet him in person!

Complete Event Gallery Here


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