Emotional robot set for sale in Japan

2014-06-06 11:48
Humanoid Robot Pepper is displayed at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo. (Koji Sasahara, AP)

Humanoid Robot Pepper is displayed at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo. (Koji Sasahara, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Robotics
    A book on state-of-the-art robotics research on such topics as manipulation, motion planning,... Now R941.00
    buy now
Tokyo - A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile.

Son's mobile phone company Softbank said on Thursday that the robot it has dubbed Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for ¥198 000 ($1 900). Overseas sales plans are under consideration but undecided.

The machine, which has no legs, but has gently gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming. It dramatically touched hands with Son in a Genesis or "ET" moment.

Son, who told the crowd that his long-time dream was to go into the personal robot business, said Pepper has been programmed to read the emotions of people around it by recognizing expressions and voice tones.

"Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile," he said.

Clueless look

The 121cm tall, 28kg white Pepper, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest, was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which produces autonomous humanoid robots.

Besides featuring the latest voice recognition, Pepper is loaded with more than a dozen sensors, including two touch sensors in its hands, three touch sensors on its head, and six laser sensors and three bumper sensors in its base.

It also has two cameras and four microphones on its head and has Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking capabilities. Up close, it bears a resemblance to C-3PO in Star Wars, especially in its clueless look.

But a demonstration on Friday at a Softbank retailer in Tokyo highlighted the robot's shortcomings as much as its charm.


Robot Pepper is designed to interact with humans. (Koji Sasahara, AP)

Voice recognition takes a while to kick in, when its eyes light up in a listening mode after the robot stops talking, making for less than spontaneous dialogue, similar to the frustration one experiences talking with iPhone's Siri.

Pepper was more fluid with its own chatter, such as asking "Do you do Twitter?" or "Is this the first time you ever spoke to a robot?" But it wouldn't really wait for an answer, rattling on to the next topic.

Sometimes the robot failed to catch a speaker's words and would say: "I could not hear you. Could you say that again?"

Cute culture

When a person shouted to test out how well it read emotions, it didn't do much except to say: "You look like an honest person."

In Thursday's demonstration, Pepper sang, I want to be loved, and it did more singing and gesturing with its hands on Friday.

But all its song-and-dance acts seemed to prove was that the machine needs to learn a lot more tricks to impress robot-savvy Japanese. The Softbank shop barely drew a crowd besides a pack of reporters with their cameras.

Cuddly robots are not new in Japan, a nation dominated by "kawaii", or cute culture, but no companion robot has emerged as a major market success yet.

Sony discontinued the Aibo pet-dog robot in 2006, despite an outcry from its fans. Honda Motor has developed the walking, talking Asimo robot, which appears in Honda showrooms and gala events.

Many other Japanese companies, including Hitachi and Toyota Motor, have developed various robots. There is little emphasis on delivering on practical work, in contrast to industrial robots at factories and military robots for war.

But the potential is great for intelligent machines as the number of elderly requiring care is expected to soar in rapidly-ageing Japan. Robotic technology is already used to check on the elderly and robots might also play a role in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- AP
Read more on:    robotics
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic & Train Alerts
Traffic
Strandfontein 17:59 PM
Road name: Strandfontein Road Southbound

DELAYS between Pelikan Park and Spine Road

Stellenbosch 17:59 PM
Road name: Adam Tas Road Westbound

HEAVY DELAYS between central Stellenbosch and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is the end of the month and there may be a strong focus on organising finances. You may have found a need to reconstruct or...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.