Pepper the friendly robot struts its stuff in Europe ahead of commercial launch

Pepper the Robot
Pepper, SoftBank’s interactive social robot that went on sale in Japan in June, has made its European debut.

A total of seven Peppers, each one 120-cm-tall, have been put to work in various spots around a major French retail store in eastern Paris, helping shoppers with inquiries and offering suggestions on things like wine purchases, AFP reported.

The move comes as Pepper’s creators gear up for a commercial launch of the robot in both Europe and the U.S., likely next year.

Speaking on Tuesday at the WSJD tech conference in Laguna Beach, California, Magali Cubier of Aldebaran Robotics, the French firm that partnered with SoftBank to create the robot, said Pepper’s presence inside the store was mainly “to entertain people and to test how they react to seeing a robot in a shop.” Hopefully they’ll be a little kinder than the shopper in Japan who was arrested recently for giving Pepper an unprovoked kicking.

Back in Japan, Pepper is being marketed not only as an assistant for companies and businesses, but also as a companion for families and those living alone.

By all accounts, the robot has been proving popular with consumers, with SoftBank seemingly having little difficulty producing and selling 1,000 Peppers a month. Indeed, the first batch sold out in just 60 seconds. The early success comes despite its hefty $1,650 price tag, while buyers also have to fork out $200 a month to cover various service charges.

SoftBank, which markets Pepper in Japan, says its robot is able to understand the feelings of humans that it interacts with and can also generate its own emotions autonomously by processing information from on-board cameras and sensors.

Pepper conveys its own emotions via body posture, tone of voice, and color changes shown on its “heart display,” which is basically a tablet attached to its torso. And if all that wasn’t enough, it can sing, dance, and tell jokes, too.

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