Masayoshi Son, the chairman and chief executive officer and chairman of Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) introduced Pepper, the first personal robot with emotion.
The Japanese conglomerate’s subsidiary, Softbank Mobile in collaboration with Alderaban Robotics SAA, the world leader in humanoid robotics developed Pepper. The four-feet or 1.2 meter humanoid robot can read emotions based on a person’s expression, communicate, measures distance and many other capabilities as it is integrated with different technologies.
According to Son, he spent his childhood watching “Astro Boy,” an animated Japanese television series during the 1960’s. The original version of the TV series showed the robot is incapable of experiencing emotions.
“Astro Boy’ was not able to experience feelings such as pain, sadness and happiness. Although I was a small child, I thought it was a pity. I thought it would be nice if robots and computers could figure out such feelings,” according to Son during a briefing in Chiba prefecture near Tokyo last Thursday.
Pepper is a humanoid robot that reacts pro-actively while taking into account its surroundings using proprietary algorithms. It is equipped with capabilities and an interface that allows communication with people. Some of these include the latest voice recognition technology, superior joint technology for graceful gestures and emotion recognition that analyzes expressions and voice tone.
According to Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984), Pepper can provide entertaining communication and interaction with people because it has the ability to amuse, make jokes and dance. Its entertainment capabilities were developed by the company in partnership with Yoshimoto Robotics Laboratory. The company is also planning to integrate capabilities that will allow Pepper to learn through its daily interactions with people.
Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) said Pepper’s capabilities is expected to expand further as it will integrate robot apps from developers worldwide. The company will distribute the Alderaban software development kit that will be used to create robot apps during the Tech Festival in Tokyo on September 2014. It will also provide development methods, technical specifications and other details regarding the process of creating robot apps.
Softbank and Alderaban to sell millions
During an interview in Tokyo, Bruno Maissonnier, the chief executive officer of Alderaban Robotics indicated their plan sell millions of personal, emotion-reading robots. He said,“How many Peppers will we sell? Millions. This will allow us to reduce production costs and then to turn profitable. We’re losing money at the beginning but we’re betting that a huge number of people will buy the robots.”
Softbank Corp. (TYO:9984) said Pepper robots will be available in Japan at Softbank Mobile on February 2015. Its starting price will be ¥198,000. Pepper started interacting with people as a new member of SoftBank Omotesando and SoftBank Ginza stores following its launching on June 6.
Pepper will also be available in the United States at the retail stores of Sprint Corporation (NYSE:S), a subsidiary of Softbank.