This ro­bot knows how you feel

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Meet Pep­per: A 4-foot-tall coo­ing, ges­tur­ing hu­manoid on wheels that can de­ci­pher emo­tions. The lat­est Ja­panese ro­bot can also sing, dance and crack jokes, though is

Out­liers as­sum­ing it won’t pose a threat to Hugh Jack­man’s ca­reer.

While in­dus­trial and med­i­cal ro­bots have been around for a while, the po­ten­tial is great for in­tel­li­gent ma­chines as the num­ber of el­derly re­quir­ing care is ex­pected to soar in com­ing years in rapidly ag­ing Ja­pan. Ro­botic tech­nol­ogy is al­ready used to check on the el­derly and mon­i­tor their health and safety, but ro­bots might also play a role in re­duc­ing feel­ings of lone­li­ness and isolation.

Pep­per was un­veiled re­cently in Ja­pan by bil­lion­aire Masayoshi Son. Son’s mo­bile phone com­pany, Softbank, said that the ro­bot will go on sale in Ja­pan in Fe­bru­ary for 198,000 yen ($1,900). Over­seas sales plans are un­de­cided.

The ma­chine, which has no legs but has gen­tly ges­tic­u­lat­ing hands, ap­peared on a stage in a Tokyo sub­urb, coo­ing and hum­ming. It dra­mat­i­cally touched hands with Son in a Gen­e­sis or “E.T.” mo­ment.

Son said that Pep­per has been pro­grammed to read the emo­tions of people around it by rec­og­niz­ing ex­pres­sions and voice tones. “Our aim is to de­velop af­fec­tion­ate ro­bots that can make people smile,” he told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Be­sides fea­tur­ing the lat­est voice recog­ni­tion, Pep­per is loaded with more than a dozen sen­sors, two cam­eras and four mi­cro­phones on its head and Wi-Fi and Eth­er­net net­work­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

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