After months of delay, SoftBank Corp. announced Thursday that it would make Pepper, its humanoid robot, available to the general public on Saturday, but with an extra twist.
This version of Pepper will have its own emotions.
“For the first time, we have successfully given emotion and heart to robots,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son claimed.
Pepper has evolved significantly since its debut last June, Son said at a news conference in Chiba Prefecture. Last year, the Internet conglomerate described Pepper as the first robot in the world capable of reading people’s emotions by their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.
On Thursday, Son said the 120-cm, 29-kg machine now has its own emotions.
Pepper is equipped with an “endocrine-type multi-layer neural network” that adjusts its emotions based on sensor readings and interactions with humans.
For instance, when lights are turned off and the room becomes dark, Pepper “feels” anxious. And if no one interacts with the robot for a long time, it will behave as if lonely. Conversely, it will act happy when given a compliment.
The emotions can be checked via an emotion map on a tablet computer attached to the robot.
The upgraded version of Pepper will start at ¥198,000 for the machine itself, but owners will also need to pay ¥14,800 a month to use its cloud-based database and ¥9,800 for three years of insurance.
SoftBank said that it can make about 1,000 units per month and that there are about 200 related apps available, including those that let Pepper maintain a photo journal or teach English to children.
The robot was originally set to debut in February in Japan, but SoftBank said it would delay the launch to around summer.
It also announced plans to sell the Pepper overseas, with help from China-based Alibaba and Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, also known as Hon Hai, the manufacturing giant that makes Pepper. Both announced plans to invest ¥14.5 billion each in SoftBank Robotics, the business arm for SoftBank’s robot endeavors. The two firms will each have a 20 percent stake in SoftBank Robotics. Son declined to comment on when and where Pepper will be available for purchase next
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