Man arrested for assaulting Pepper, the robot that can read your emotions

pepper working in hospital softbank bot
When SoftBank introduced Pepper to the world last year, the company focused heavily on the robot’s ability to read people’s emotions.

Since then, SoftBank has been placing a number of Peppers in its stores across Japan to give people a better idea of how the android can interact with humans and respond to their behavior.

Unfortunately, as Pepper learned to its cost this week, these responses don’t yet extend to karate maneuvers.

You see, the talking bot happened to be on duty in a store south of Tokyo on Sunday when an apparently inebriated customer took a dislike to the attitude of a clerk. Rather than take out his anger on the human member of staff, the 60-year-old man instead lashed out at Pepper, kicking and damaging the 120-cm robot, the Japan Times reported.

Local police said security footage gathered from the scene shows the arrested man assaulting Pepper, and confirmed that he’s admitted to damaging property at the store.

While the Pepper bot has been trumpeted by SoftBank for being able to understand and react accordingly to human facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, it’s not sure if its internal software includes data corresponding to a drunk person shouting angrily and aggressively in its direction. Judging by Sunday’s incident, an update may be required.

Pepper went on sale in Japan in June for 198,000 yen ($1650), with the first batch of 1,000 units selling out in just 60 seconds. The Japanese telecom giant partnered with French robotics company Aldebaran SAS to develop Pepper, and is working with tech manufacturing giant Foxconn to build it.

SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son said recently that Pepper could be employed as a friendly companion and entertainer in family homes thanks to its ability to sing, dance, and tell jokes.

The company also hopes businesses will use Pepper to meet and greet customers, while schools and retirement homes are also expected to find applications for it.

Customer-facing positions, however, clearly come with some risks attached.

Staff at the SoftBank store said that despite the assault, Pepper seemed fine but was moving a little slower than usual, though you probably would too if you took a blow to the technicals.

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