SoftBank’s Pepper robot isn’t just the world’s first android to understand human emotions – it’s also the first to inspire the launch of an online store offering a range of clothing and accessories made especially for a droid.
Since going on sale in Japan in June, the 120-centimeter-tall robot appears to have won itself plenty of fans, among them two buddies who’ve got together to make and sell a range of garments and other gear so owners can personalize their Pepper.
Mitsuru Numata, who runs a Pepper fan club, came up with the idea for an online store after a chat with friend Reiko Kawauchi, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
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But the task of designing clothes, jewelry, and other gear for Pepper turned out to be trickier than expected. Early designs saw materials interfere with the robot’s sensors or become caught in its joints and hinges, causing it to malfunction.
Determined to prettify Pepper, they eventually found a way of dressing it up without causing any operational issues, and once they’d knocked together a few different items, they started selling the stuff online.
Current offerings include a range of dresses for around 20,000 yen ($163), as well as a red kimono, also for 20,000 yen. For a more formal look – ideal if Pepper is acting as your butler – a tux and bow tie can be yours for 15,000 yen ($122).
And with Christmas just around the corner, the duo have just added some seasonal costumes, too.
The store also includes necklaces, earrings, hairpieces, and stickers that act as makeup.
Commenting on the venture, Numata told the Journal, “We’re not doing it for the money. We aim to offer the joy of the experience of personalizing humanoid robots.”
Pepper, which is the result of a partnership between SoftBank and French robotics company Aldebaran SAS, is being marketed in Japan as an assistant for businesses and also as a companion for families and those living by themselves.
When it went on sale in June, the first batch of 1,000 Peppers sold out in just 60 seconds. Since then SoftBank has been producing a further 1,000 a month, though demand indicates it should be making plenty more.
The robot has been designed to understand the feelings of humans it interacts with by processing information gathered via on-board cameras and sensors. It can then respond with its own emotions through body posture, tone of voice, and color changes shown on its “heart display,” essentially a tablet strapped to its torso. It can also sing, dance, and tell jokes.
Pepper costs $1,650, though buyers also have to spend an additional $200 a month to cover various service charges. The droid should arrive in the U.S. and Europe next year, so if you happen to get one and feel like making it look less naked, you’ll be pleased to know that Numata’s online store ships overseas.