Light Reading
The waist-high Pepper household robot will go on sale in February, but start working in stores in Japan Friday.

SoftBank Launches $2K Personal Robot That Feels Emotions, Evolves

Mitch Wagner
6/5/2014
50%
50%

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son introduced "the first robot with emotions" at a press conference in Japan Thursday. The household robot, capable of evolving to grow more sophisticated, will go on sale in February, priced at 198,000 yen (less than $2,000).

"One hundred years from today, or 200 years from today, the people will say that the history of computing changed from today," Son said. Computers today compute numbers, memorize, and calculate; they're "left-brained." But Pepper, the cute, waist-high humanoid robot SoftBank introduced Thursday, is right-brained. "So I proudly announce the first personal robot that feels emotion," Son said.

"Our vision is to create the affectionate robot," he said. SoftBank is working in partnership with French robot developer Aldebaran Robotics and Chinese manufacturer Foxconn for the Internet-connected robot.

The waist-high Pepper household robot will go on sale in February, but starts working in stores in Japan Friday.
The waist-high Pepper household robot will go on sale in February, but starts working in stores in Japan Friday.

Prior to general availability, robots like Pepper will work in SoftBank stores, starting with two Japanese locations on Friday.

The press conference, broadcast online on streaming video, opened with the cartoonish robot doing a graceful, slow-motion dance, and then Son joined the robot for a bit of comedy schtick. The robot looked embarrassed at being onstage in front of a crowd of journalists.

Then the robot rolled offstage, and Son explained SoftBank's strategy.

Robots like Pepper will work in families, reacting autonomously to the happiness and sadness of family members, Son said.

The robots will use a cloud-based artificial intelligence "emotion engine," learning family habits and likes and storing the information in the cloud while also protecting privacy. The robots will share collective information for greater learning, Son said. SoftBank is launching Cocoro SB, a company to provide cloud service for the emotional engine.

"Anything good is going to be collected, collective wisdom, learned by everyone. They are all going to evolve through the collective wisdom, by reading situations," Son said. Events that lead to intense emotions, such as a child's birthday party, will be "intensely recorded." But unimportant events, such as watching TV, will be minimized, compressed or simplified. "The wave of the emotion is relatively small," Son said.

SoftBank's partner in the Pepper enterprise, Aldebaran, developed the Nao robot, and has more than 3,000 deployed in research, education, and in helping people with autism, founding president Bruno Maisonnier said at the press conference.

Pepper "will add a new dimension to our daily lives and change the way we interact with technology," Maisonnier said.

"Robots are the ultimate interface, cute companions, and can evolve. As the ultimate interface, they can choose the appropriate way to interact, by voice, body language, or emotions," he added.

Pepper combines voice recognition with an emotional engine that can understand facial expressions, gestures, and voice tones, giving the robot the ability to understand mood and react correctly, with applications in education, healthcare, entertainment, and other industries. Additionally, Pepper is connected to the Internet.

"And the robot has body language and expressivity," Maisonnier said. "Finally, the robot is autonomous and can evolve. The robot is like a new species of artificial beings that can evolve, and learn, and become more surprising every day."

Maisonnier compared the robot to the first PCs or mobile phones -- crude, but a new beginning.

Aldebaran will host a developer conference in September for third-party applications built on Pepper.

Japan has one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world, and the government hopes to offset a labor shortage using robots, Reuters reports.

Japan's overall robotics market was worth about 860 billion yen ($8.38 billion) two years ago, and will triple to 2.85 trillion yen by 2020, Reuters says.

Panasonic and robotics research subsidiary ActiveLink this week showed robotic suits and vests to assist in difficult manual tasks such as carrying heavy loads or picking fruit from trees.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
t.bogataj
50%
50%
t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/6/2014 | 2:24:17 AM
Wrong-brained
Terms like "cloud-based emotion engine" really sound like something right-brained, full of emotions.

A toy for those missing both hemispheres.

T.

 
SReedy
50%
50%
SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
6/5/2014 | 5:15:07 PM
Re: Jaded
That's what caught my eye too. I've seen other robot models that include video for kids that are unable to attend school, which was also a neat use case. A lot of cool consumer ideas are developed from helping people with disabilities. This does seem like a bit of an extravagent one. Sounds about right for a billionaire's toy.
FakeMitchWagner
50%
50%
FakeMitchWagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/5/2014 | 3:41:12 PM
Re: Jaded
sam masud - We're starting to get into deep philosophical waters here. Can a machine feel? Or does it simply detect human emotions and emulate an appropriate response? (As if there was anything simple about that.)
FakeMitchWagner
50%
50%
FakeMitchWagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/5/2014 | 3:38:56 PM
Re: Jaded
$2,000 makes this a toy for the rich. But the way pricing on electronics goes, it'll be $200 in 10 years. 

So now imagine this as a humanoid Internet terminal. Or like Siri or Google Now in a cute humanoid form. "When is my next appointment?" "Read me my last text message?" "How's traffic between here and the office?" "What's the weather going to be like this afternoon?" 

I can maybe see the value of that. 

One open question: How's the dexterity on this gadget? I don't expect it to have much strength, but can it go get me a yogurt from the refrigerator when I ask it to? Can it pick up the dog toys from the sunroom and put them in the box, and then pick up all the little bits of paper from where the dog shredded an envelope out of the recycle bin?
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/5/2014 | 3:10:40 PM
Re: Jaded
I dunno, Mitch, seems they really are stretching the marketing language when they start talking about an emotional robot, which to me seems like an oxymoron. Maybe they should call it a hubot (human+robot). Never mind, that was just a thought...
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
6/5/2014 | 5:19:07 AM
Re: Jaded
I was intrigued by the mention of how they help autistic children. But yeah, it does seem like an instant buddy for someone with more money than they know how to spend. 
FakeMitchWagner
50%
50%
FakeMitchWagner,
User Rank: Lightning
6/5/2014 | 2:10:15 AM
Jaded
I'm a jaded tech journalist, but watching the press conference was like watching the beginning of the Singularity.

Still, the jaded tech journalist in me said, ok, it's very cool -- but what's it do? Why would I want to buy one, other than as a $2,000 toy?
Flash Poll
Wagner’s Ring
Data Centers Drive Telcos Into the Future

8|28|14   |   2:20   |   (2) comments


Data centers are at the heart of key trends driving telecom -- network virtualization, the drive for increased agility, and the need to compete with OTT providers.
LRTV Custom TV
Why SPs Should Consider Cisco's EPN

8|27|14   |   5:40   |   (0) comments


Sultan Dawood from Cisco discusses Cisco's EPN, which enables SPs to build agile and programmable networks delivering new network virtualized services using Cisco's Evolved Services Platform (ESP).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Showcase @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   2.56   |   (0) comments


SoftCOM is Huawei's framework for telecom business and network transformation. Haofei Liu, Solution Marketing Manager, Carrier Business Group, Huawei, showcases Huawei's SoftCOM architecture in this video.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of Integrated Solutions on SoftCOM & NFV Monetization

8|26|14   |   4.43   |   (0) comments


Libin Dai, Director of Integrated Solutions, Carrier Business Group, discusses Huawei's SoftCOM and NFV monetization. Huawei believes that NFV monetization should be service-driven rather than network-driven, and that operators should have network transformation, service transformation and a compatible and collaborative ecosystem in place in order to deploy NFV.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei @ BTE 2014: Director of US NFV Lab on CloudEdge & the Future of NFV

8|26|14   |   4.06   |   (0) comments


Sean Chen, Director of US NFV Lab at Huawei, discusses Huawei's new approach to NFV in open collaboration. Huawei believes that through Proof of Concept tests, it could help operators learn and communicate with the industry more effectively. Sean believes that successful implementation of NFV should have its values reaching to end users and discusses how Huawei's ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Highlights @ Big Telecom Event 2014

8|26|14   |   3.34   |   (0) comments


At the Big Telecom Event in Chicago Huawei showcases its high-level strategy, the SoftCOM architecture, which helps operators reduce the cost of ownership of their network infrastructure and generate additional revenue in the ICT service environment. Huawei showcases over 30 pilot programs from across the globe, focusing on the industry-leading commercial ...
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX – Live from the Show

8|21|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


An overview of VeEX Test and Measurement solutions including TX300S multi-service test set with VeExpress cloud-based management system, UX400 universal modular platform supporting 100G testing, and the redesigned RXT modular platform.
LRTV Custom TV
Transitioning CE 2.0 Networks Into the SDN & NFV Era With Telco Systems

8|19|14   |   5:19   |   (0) comments


Telco Systems' Ariel Efrati (CEO) and Moshe Shimon (VP of Product Management) discuss virtualization and how the company's new Open Metro Edge solution utilizes the SDN and NFV concepts to accelerate and orchestrate service delivery through its innovative product portfolio and software applications.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Myths: Is NFV Still Several Years Away?

8|11|14   |   1:13   |   (0) comments


Some say that NFV (network functions virtualization) is still several years away from being implemented on mobile operator networks. This isn't the case. Operators can get started on their paths to NFV now, as this short video from Skyfire shows.
LRTV Custom TV
A New Security Paradigm in SDN/NFV

7|28|14   |   02:54   |   (0) comments


Paul Shaneck, Global Director Network Solutions for Symantec, discusses the evolving virtualized network, explaining how Symantec is leading the security discussion as it relates to SDN and NFV, and helping to ensure the network is protected and compliant.
LRTV Documentaries
Sprint's Network Evolution

7|24|14   |   14:59   |   (0) comments


Sprint's Jay Bluhm gives a keynote speech at the Big Telecom Event (BTE) about Sprint's network and services evolution strategy, including Spark.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Keynote: The Software-Defined Operator

7|24|14   |   18:43   |   (1) comment


Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg explains the concept of the software-defined operator to the Big Telecom Event (BTE) crowd.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Hot Topics
Rogers, Shaw Take Aim at Netflix
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 8/26/2014
Utilities to Pump $11.2B Into Smart Grid – Study
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 8/26/2014
T-Mobile: Small Cells? We're Dense Already
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 8/22/2014
Verizon Launches QR Code Security Solution
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 8/26/2014
M2M's In Fashion: Wearables Play the US Open
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 8/25/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed