Man's best friend may soon be a humanoid, a computerized robot, capable of determining its owner's mood and feelings and offering a modicum of emotional comfort in return.
With no further introduction, meet "Pepper," described by its creators as "The World's First Personal Robot That Reads Emotions." Its creators are Japan-based SoftBank Mobile Corporation and its French subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics SAS, a manufacturer of humanoid robotics. If corporations are people, then yes, Pepper has two parents.
Pepper will be available for sale and empathy in Japan from SoftBank Mobile in February 2015. The price may not provide much comfort; anticipated retail stands at the equivalent of $1,900, still cheaper than a shrink. Plans for sale outside Japan are not yet determined.
But, you ask, what will Pepper do for me? Well, he is programmed to make people happy. He won't do your dishes or reupholster your furniture, but he will provide companionship, engagement, personal growth and some life-quality-enhancing services.
There's nothing that symbolizes warm and fuzzy emotions better than proprietary algorithms, and Pepper uses those to interact with people and to react pro-actively with perceived moods and feelings. Pepper features cutting edge voice recognition technology, joint technologies that enable more graceful gestures, and emotion recognition that analyzes expressions and voice tones. These allow Pepper to just act naturally.
Pepper can entertain - he (his creators consider him male) can tell jokes, dance and otherwise spread joy and good tidings. Developers worldwide are creating apps that can be downloaded into Pepper, enhancing his capabilities including motion, sensory functions and conversational skills. Aldebaran is providing a software development kit (SDK) for developing these robot apps.
Pepper is provided with a chest-mounted 10.1-inch touch screen tablet, which he uses to display images, content or to express his own feelings. Pepper is linguistically agile, and can speak English, French, Japanese and Spanish. More languages are under development.
According to Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank, Pepper is designed primarily to enhance quality of life.
"We have followed our corporate philosophy of Information Revolution - Happiness For Everyone. To realize our vision, we have made a new entry into the robot business with the aim of developing affectionate robots that make people smile," said Son.
Echoing that belief in personal bonhomie was Bruno Maisonnier, founder and CEO of Aldebaran.
"The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology," said Maisonnier.
Pepper's specs include over 12 hours of battery life; graceful joint and body movement; the ability to acquire information and synchronize with cloud-based databases through an Internet connection; collision-avoidance sensors and autobalance; expandability through installation of a growing collection of robot apps. He is approximately four feet tall.