Starting this weekend in Japan, people can buy a talking, person-shaped robot that reads your body language and gets sad when you turn off the lights.
It’s called Pepper, a four-foot-tall, 27 kilos, open-source, talking, dancing, joke-telling robot that guesses users’ moods and keeps them company. Pepper can be outfitted with over 200 apps that can teach English to kids or keep photo journals. SoftBank, the Japanese cellular megacorp that’s selling Pepper, says it’s the world’s first robot able to intuit human emotions by sensing changes in voice and other things like facial expressions. It’ll sell for 198,000 yen, or about £1,013.
In addition, Pepper has its own emotions, which is an added feature since the robot was initially announced last year. In Tamagochi-ish fashion, Pepper gets lonely if you ignore it, and laughs if you tell it a joke.
That might sound a little creepsville, but lots of robots are being developed with an “emotional companion” angle, especially for children, the elderly, and hospital patients. Take Jibo or this Teddy Ruxpin for the new millennium as a few examples. So who knows how practical or widely used Pepper’ll be.
Don’t worry about this sensitive ‘bot stealing your jobs, though. The developers say Pepper’s not designed for manual labour. (Though I could see customer service jobs in the line of fire.) Pepper only exists to be your robot buddy, specifically created to keep people company, especially in Japan, whose population is the fastest-ageing in the world.
But Pepper isn’t going to be just a Japanese on off—this little guy has plans to go global. Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba and Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn are investing £75 million into SoftBank’s robot-making efforts, so Pepper 2.0 could very well escape the confines of Japan to parts currently unknown.
Image via AP