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Kaz Hirai reveals Sony is working on a robot with 'emotional' capabilities

Kaz Hirai at CES 2016
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
We’re living in an era when the sci-fi concepts of yesteryear are becoming consumer products. Most of us carry around a powerful computing device in our pockets, virtual reality headsets are readily available, and now Sony is working on a robot that can engage in naturalistic interactions with humans.

News of the robot came via a company strategy meeting that took place early this morning in Tokyo, according to a report from The Verge. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai gave word of the ambitious project, along with some news and notes pertaining to other avenues being explored by the company.

An organization devoted to this robotics project was established internally in April, and is currently hard at work developing the concept. Notes from the presentation state that Sony is committed to using new business models to “provide emotionally compelling experiences.”

The robot will apparently be “capable of forming an emotional bond with customers.” While that statement is open to interpretation, it seems clear that Sony is working on a method of making robot-human interaction less stilted.

Of course, Sony isn’t the only organization that is working on making robots more personable. Japan’s SoftBank and France’s Aldebaran SAS have collaborated on Pepper, a companion bot designed to be as approachable as possible. Pepper has already been implemented in a number of different working environments, including two Belgian hospitals.

Robots that are able to understand and react to human emotions will be able to fulfill roles that are impossible for their counterparts that don’t possess that ability. Sony seems to recognize that now is the time to jump on this particular bandwagon — whichever company takes the lead in this nascent field will be in line for ample reward once the technology is ready for a mass rollout.

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