SoftBank shows off Pepper, an ’emotional’ robot that knows how you’re feeling

pepper working in hospital softbank bot

SoftBank may be busy finalizing the details of its rumored T-Mobile takeover, but it evidently still has time to design, build and launch a new kind of robot that it claims can read people’s emotions and communicate in a human-like way.

Described by the Japanese phone giant as a world first for its unique capabilities, the bot marks an ambitious new chapter for the company as it sets out to explore an entirely new market.

Called Pepper, the diminutive humanoid was unveiled by SoftBank boss Masayoshi Son at a special event near Tokyo on pepper robot

“People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions,” Son told the gathered press.

Standing at 120 centimeters, weighing 28 kilograms and featuring what appears to be a tablet strapped to its chest, sensor-laden Pepper uses “emotion engines” to help it understand its interactions with humans, supposedly giving users the ability to communicate with the humanoid in a natural way, “just like they would with friends and family,” SoftBank said. The robot will also connect with the cloud to share data with other Peppers to help it develop its emotional responses.

According to the company, the bot can “make jokes, dance and amuse people thanks to a wide variety of entertainment capabilities.”

Never backwards in coming forwards, Son claimed that “100 years, 200 years or 300 years from now, people will probably recall today as a historic day in which computers changed.”

The robot is the result of a collaboration between SoftBank, French robotic specialist Aldebaran, and Japanese firm Yoshimoto Robotics Laboratory.

Aldebaran boss Bruno Maisonnier said that in recent years he’s come to believe “the most important role of robots will be as kind and emotional companions to enhance our daily lives, to bring happiness, constantly surprise us, and make people grow.” Indeed, with the country’s fast-expanding aging population presenting a unique set of challenges for Japanese society, it’s possible we might one day find an army of Peppers chewing the fat with the nation’s oldsters somewhere down the line.

As SoftBank preps Pepper for a February release in Japan with a 198,000-yen ($1935) price tag, applications will be created by developers in the intervening months to enhance the humanoid’s functionality.

In the meantime, you can see Pepper in action at two of SoftBank’s Tokyo stores – in Ginza and Omotesando – where it’s apparently helping to serve customers, a sight surely worth checking out if you happen to be in the Japanese capital.

[Source: Reuters, Japan Times]

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

Bose’s technology patents could save an earbud’s battery life

Possibly taking a cue from Apple's popular AirPods, Bose filed a patent application for earbud IR technology that could save battery life, improve sound quality, and possibly help people locate lost earbuds.

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…
Movies & TV

The truth is out there: Here are the 10 best episodes of ‘The X-Files’

From alien-abduction drama to hilarious satires, these are the best episodes of The X-Files from all 11 seasons of the award-winning series that made audiences want to believe that the truth - scary as it might be - is out there.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?