“Emotional Robot” Sells Out in 60 Seconds
Created by SoftBank Robotics, “Pepper” is a robot that is able to recognize different signs of emotions in users in react appropriately. A thousand models were made available in late June, and all of them sold out, at a price of roughly $1,600 USD. Consumer robotics is by no means a new interest in consumer technology, but Pepper is one of the first to use a complex system of cameras and sensors to try and assess a person’s emotional states. In the race to bridge the gap between people and machines, Pepper could be a step in the right direction.
Under the Hood
Utilizing a complicated neural network, Pepper’s a different entry into the world of consumer robotics. While most have been lauded as a way to help the sick or infirm, especially in a Japanese climate that will need such services as their elderly population grows, Pepper’s intended function is to provide entertainment and companionship, more along the lines of a family pet. In that way, the robot’s introduction into the market could be a key signal for a growing interest in replacing the typical household pet with one that won’t run away, tear up your shoes while you’re at work, or leave unpleasant surprises in the corners of your home.
Considering the cost of a puppy can run as high as $3,000 depending on breed and lineage, the $1,600 USD price tag isn’t especially outrageous, either. Recent studies have actually shown that dogs have evolved over the course of several tens of thousands of years to respond to and understand human emotion, intonation, and behavior– contrast that with Pepper, who has had roughly over half a century of work toward the matter, and it becomes clear that there’s something to be said for the superiority of technology.
- Fluent in English, Spanish, Japanese, and French, and able to communicate with owners accordingly.
- Cloud data is shared between different “Peppers,” meaning these robots can learn from one another based on their experiences, and do so in real time. Pepper uses a wireless data model that allows it to transmit information that it learns regarding language and behavior, and that knowledge is shared at a central hub with every other Pepper.
- A business model is planned, possibly to act as a sort of greeter or receptionist for businesses that want to cut down on the amount of man hours they need to dedicate to the task. In the future, Pepper service models could even work at self-checkout services and lines, as well as provide additional electronic surveillance in areas of a store that may otherwise see high amounts of pilferage.
The future looks bright for consumer robotics, but it’s not there yet. Pepper’s high price and limited consumer release are just one example of where the technology could be going within the next decade, and shows a great amount of promise for both businesses and consumers alike.