Japan to Release Emo Robot

June 6, 2014 10:28 AM

Robots were designed to do monotonous tasks and make life easy for human kind.The only thing that made us better than robots, was our ability to emote. Taking a leaf out of Issac Asimov’s short story A Bicentennial Man, which enjoyed success as a Hollywood flick with Robin Williams in it is now seeing the light of day. 2014 finally sees the début of Japan’s first robot Pepper, a humanoid on wheels that coos and can decipher emotions.

Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, who owns a mobile phone company Softbank, unveiled Pepper priced at 198,000 yen (1150.18£). Son.who thinks that robots should be tender and make people smile, plans to begin sales of Pepper by February 2015. He did confirm international sales plans but decided not to give any concrete statements about it, owing to indecision.

Pepper, that looks like the title character in Wall-E, has no legs. With arms that gently gesticulated the robot appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming. In true iconic fashion, the robot touched Son’s hands à la ET. Son who longed to make his dream of personalized robots a business reality, informed the crowd that Pepper was programmed to read human emotions by recognizing distinct voice tones and expressions.”Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile,” he said.

Robots and Japan are no strangers to each other. The technologically advanced nation has always shared an affinity for cute and cuddly things. With a “kawaii” or cute culture dominating Japan, the robots have not seen any major market success. Sony, Japan’s famed electronics and entertainment company started this trend in 2006, with Aibo their pet-dog robot. Sony discontinued the Aibo, with fans upset with the move. To pacify the fans, Sony released a child-shaped entertainment robot. The robot, a smaller relative to Pepper, danced and did some “charming ” moves, but never translated into a commercial product. Honda, another famous Japanese firm, took the opposite direction with Asimo. Asimo, walked and talked but turned out to be expensive and advanced for domestic use. The robot still prone to glitches in spite of its complexity, interacts with people only at Honda showrooms and gala events. Universities, Hitachi and Toyota, well-known Japanese firms have played the game too, introducing robots both big and small to entertain as companions.

The little emphasis on delivering practical work sets these humanoids apart from the industrial and military counterparts. The rapidly ageing Japanese see great potential in Pepper. The need for intelligent machines to serve the elderly is rising and robotics currently monitors their health and safety. Extending the care to reducing loneliness and isolation, these robots are definitely doing more than what is required.

Singing I Want To Be Loved, Pepper who is 121 cm tall and 28 kgs, is hairless and has two large doll-like eyes. Aldebaran Robotics, a firm that produces such humanoids, collaborated with Softbank to produce the flat-screen display on its chest. A dozen sensors, including two touch sensors in its hand three touch sensors on its head, six laser sensors and three bumpers on the base.With two cameras and four microphones on its head, Pepper gets its information through Wi-Fi and ethernet from cloud-based databases. Safety features to avoid crashes and falls are included with installable robotic applications to increase Pepper’s possibilities. Pepper, which will start to display at Softbank retailers can dance and tell jokes too. Hopefully the elderly, who this product targets finds that interesting.