What better way to destress after a hard day than talking to a lovable robot? It might sound like a sci-fi movie, but Pepper might just become your best friend. My first impression was the robot looks like a slimmed down version of Rosie the Robot from the old cartoon “The Jetsons.” My second thought was: I need one!
To date, household robots aren’t realistic. The closest thing we really had was something like Siri. In less than a year, anyone willing to dish out around $1900 could own their very own Pepper. Sound creepy? Kind of. If you’re like me, you’re still really curious to try one out though.
The Emotional Robot
Pepper isn’t your typical robot. It’s designed to be emotional, running on what’s called emotion engines. A brilliant mix of these emotion engines, a cloud based AI and advanced algorithms help give Pepper an inside look into how you’re feeling. If you’ve ever had a difficult time figuring out how others feel, this robot might be the ideal trainer to learn how to better read people.
While it’s not perfect, Pepper listens to voice tones and analyzes facial expressions to determine how someone currently feels. The robot then chooses the best phrases and tone to interact with you and even help you feel better. Thanks to the cloud-based AI, the responses and analysis will improve over time as the emotional databases are updated. This means your robot might just learn to understand you better than you know yourself.
Pepper was first unveiled on June 5, 2014 by SoftBank, a Japanese mobile carrier. They’ve partnered with Foxconn of China and Aldebaran Robotics of France to design the autonomous robot. The design itself is impressive enough. Despite the distinctly futuristic look, there’s something very human about the face itself.
Even though it’s supposed to read emotions, the Softbank CEO, Masayoshi Son, wanted to create Pepper as a way to help bring more joy into people’s lives and minimize the growing sadness from a stress-filled, hectic life. Though the unveiling didn’t go perfectly, Son stated Pepper isn’t currently able to understand everything someone says, but he expects it to vastly improve the more it’s tested and used.
Bruno Maisonner, Aldebaran’s CEO, sees Pepper as just the beginning. He sees it as a doorway to other potential uses such as improving education, entertaining and even helping with healthcare. He feels it’s another invention that will help change and improve people’s lives much like computers and the Internet have already done.
A Look Inside
Pepper has a rolling mobile base along with flexible arms and head. At almost 4 foot tall and not quite 62 pounds, the robot may seem more like a friendly child than anything. Of course, cute, happy children are extremely talented when it comes to cheering people up.
While it’s not designed to do much more than move around and converse, it is able to perform basic gestures. The built-in 10.1 inch touchscreen helps make it easier to communicate. The screen may later be used to customize Pepper as SoftBank is wanting developers to create apps for the robot.
The commercial launch is set for February 2015. While it’s not guaranteed, it’s entirely possible many tech hungry consumers will want their very own Pepper. Strangely enough, the price itself is reasonable, especially with the high cost of many new gadgets, such as Google Glass’s $1500 price tag. In fact, Pepper is priced about the same as a high-end gaming PC.
There is a possibility of consumers having to pay a subscription fee for cloud-based updates, apps and other additional features. For now, expect to pay just under $2000. If it works like the creators claim and it really does help cheer people up, it’s cheaper than therapy, massages and other destress techniques. Plus, who hasn’t wanted a friend who’s only purpose is to listen and make you feel better?