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 Thursday.softbank 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

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.
Movies & TV

Disney Plus will have less than 20% of the content available on Netflix

Disney is bringing the full weight of its massive content library to its own streaming service in 2019. How will Disney Plus compare to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Here's what we know so far.
Gaming

A beginner’s guide to flawless victory in Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 is a complex fighting game with several systems to learn, but with our beginner's guide and a bit of practice, you can be finishing enemies off with a Fatality in no time.
Emerging Tech

Russia’s robot news anchor gives human TV presenters hope

Human news anchors anxious about robots taking their jobs will be feeling reassured this week after the appearance on Russian TV of a news-reading android that clearly needs a bit of work.
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.
Emerging Tech

Climeworks wants to clean the atmosphere with a fleet of truck-sized vacuums

Using machines that resemble jet engines, Climeworks wants to fight climate change by extracting CO2 from thin air. The gas can then be sold to carbonated drink and agriculture companies, or sequestered underground.
Emerging Tech

How 3D printing has changed the world of prosthetic limbs forever

When he was 13 years old, Christophe Debard had his leg amputated. Here in 2019, Debard's Print My Leg startup helps others to create 3D-printed prostheses. Welcome to a growing revolution!