Emo­tional ro­bot set for sale in Ja­pan next year

The Covington News - - WORLD -

TOKYO (AP) — A coo­ing, ges­tur­ing hu­manoid on wheels that can de­ci­pher emo­tions has been un­veiled in Ja­pan by bil­lion­aire Masayoshi Son who says ro­bots should be ten­der and make people smile.

Son’s mo­bile phone com­pany Softbank said Thurs­day that the ro­bot it has dubbed Pep­per will go on sale in Ja­pan in Fe­bru­ary for 198,000 yen ($1,900). Over­seas sales plans are un­der con­sid­er­a­tion but 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, who told the crowd that his long­time dream was to go into the per­sonal ro­bot busi­ness, said 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 said.

The 121 cen­time­ter (48 inch) tall, 28 kilo­gram (62 pound) white Pep­per, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel dis­play stuck on its chest, was de­vel­oped jointly with Alde­baran Ro­bot­ics, which pro­duces au­ton­o­mous hu­manoid ro­bots.

Be­sides fea­tur­ing the lat­est voice recog­ni­tion, Pep­per is loaded with more than a dozen sen­sors, in­clud­ing two touch sen­sors in its hands, three touch sen­sors on its head, and six laser sen­sors and three bumper sen­sors in its base.

It also has two cam­eras and four mi­cro­phones on its head and has Wi-Fi and Eth­er­net net­work­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Up close, it bears a re­sem­blance to C-3PO in “Star Wars,” es­pe­cially in its clue­less look.

But a demon­stra­tion Fri­day at a Softbank re­tailer in Tokyo high­lighted the ro­bot’s short­com­ings as much as its charm.

AP Photo/Koji Sasa­hara

Kaname Hayashi, project leader of Hu­manoid Ro­bot “Pep­per” poses for pho­tos with “Pep­per” at SoftBank Mo­bile shop in Tokyo, Fri­day, June 6, 2014. The 121 cen­time­ter (48 inch) tall, 28 kilo­gram (62 pound) white Pep­per, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel dis­play stuck on its chest, was de­vel­oped jointly with Alde­baran Ro­bot­ics, which pro­duces au­ton­o­mous hu­manoid ro­bots.

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