Japanese telecom Softbank is developing a personal robot that can recognize and respond to human emotions. And its dance moves are pretty spectacular, too.
Unveiled earlier today at a press conference in Japan, Softbank’s ‘Pepper’ robot can analyze your gestures, expressions, and voice tones through a cloud-based artificial intelligence system, the company said.
By launch, which is slated for February 2015, Softbank expects Pepper’s behavior to evolve based on daily interactions with people, understanding your routines, hobbies, and even moods. All that individual model data will get piped back to the cloud-based system, enabling other Peppers to learn from each other.
Softbank’s goal is to make a robot people can interact with easily, as if they were chatting with a friend. The company aims to make Pepper something akin to a new family member — it could help keep an eye on kids, or it could chat with guests during parties.
“For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions,” Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank, said at a crowded press conference Thursday morning.
Pepper added some words of its own throughout the presentation.
“Being able to be considerate is my most important function,” said the robot.
Pepper’s 4-foot, 63-pound body boasts two big, bright eyes, two arms, and a single leg. Since Pepper’s mobility is restricted to a single appendage, its battery can last up to 12 hours on a single charge, compared to less than an hour for a robot with two legs, said Son.
France-based Aldebaran Robotics, which Softbank acquired for around $100 million in 2012, developed Pepper. The same firm developed the Nao humanoid robots, which have become well-known for their cute dance moves, among other talents.
Softbank intends to sell Pepper at Softbank stores and online for ¥198,000 (around $1,950) beginning in February 2015. It’s coming first to Japan, but Softbank expects to bring Pepper to international markets down the line.
Folks in Tokyo can get an early look at Pepper beginning Friday, when early versions of the robot will begin to “work” at Softbank stores in Tokyo’s Ginza and Omotesando neighborhoods.