Japanese tech firm SoftBank has announced that its emotion-sensing robot, Pepper, will go on sale in Japan from June 20. The company says that Pepper is the world’s first personal robot that can read a person's emotions. In addition, it has been designed to portray emotions of its own.
Pepper was announced last year and is described as being emotional rather than functional. SoftBank says the aim of the robot is to help people grow, to enhance their lives and relationships, and to have have fun with its users.
The robot's emotions are influenced by factors including people’s facial expressions, the things people say, and its surroundings. These are monitored by a variety of sensors, such as cameras, touch sensors and accelerometers, and they affect Pepper's subsequent words and actions. The robot might raise its voice or sigh depending on its emotion at the time, and the prevailing emotions are also shown on a display.
By way of example, SoftBank says that Pepper is typically at ease when it is around people it knows, is happy when praised and gets scared when the lights go down. The firm says it modeled Pepper's emotion functions on the release of hormones in humans in response to stimuli perceived by the senses.
Pepper is able to speak English, French, Japanese and Spanish, with more languages due to follow. Around 200 robot apps will be available for download from the dedicated app store, such as the Pepper's Diary app that records Pepper’s daily emotions and events with pictures and photos.
Pepper weighs 29 kg (64 lb) and measures 1,210 x 480 x 425 mm (48 x 19 x 17 in). It has a lithium-ion battery that can deliver over 12 hours of operation. A total of 1,000 units will be made available to purchase. They will cost from 198,000 yen (about US$1,610) each.