Light Reading

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        ADD A COMMENT
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.

 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
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.)
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
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. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
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?
From The Founder
Against the odds, Huawei is growing its telecoms networking equipment business in the US -- that should be ringing some alarm bells for domestic vendors.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
Between the CEOs
Metaswitch's New CEO Martin Lund Discusses His Role

9|2|15   |   11:27   |   (2) comments


Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Nominum on Leveraging the Power of DNS to Deliver Superior Subscriber Experiences

9|2|15   |   07:13   |   (0) comments


Nominum CEO Gary Messiana talks about the challenges service providers face in competing for a much more sophisticated customer, a customer that has heightened expectations for more personalized and compelling digital experiences. Providers are focusing their efforts on delivering higher value subscriber services, retaining their existing customers and increasing ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Jeff Miller, ActiveVideo

8|28|15   |   19:05   |   (0) comments


Jeff Miller, President and CEO of ActiveVideo, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the impact of virtualization on the TV and video distribution market.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Vodafone: Mobile Money Is About Customer Trust

8|27|15   |   06.36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading spoke with Vodafone's Ian Ravenscroft about the unique responsibilities and opportunities facing operators handling customers' financial transactions over the network.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Palo Alto Networks on Expanding in the Carrier/Service Provider Market

8|26|15   |   07:54   |   (0) comments


Alfred Lee from Palo Alto Networks tells Steve Saunders about their new chassis-based system, the PA-7080, and how it can benefit service providers compared to legacy firewalls.
LRTV Custom TV
Global Services Forum Preview

8|25|15   |   02:36   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's CEO and Founder Steve Saunders talks about Huawei's upcoming Global Services Forum with the help of Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan and Teresa Mastrangelo.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Infoblox on DNS Threat Index

8|19|15   |   04:39   |   (0) comments


Dilip Pillaipakam from Infoblox talks to Steve Saunders about his company's core network services.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Ihab Tarazi, Equinix

8|14|15   |   20:18   |   (1) comment


Equinix CTO Ihab Tarazi talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the dramatic changes in the data center, cloud and interconnect markets and discusses the impact of SDN and NFV in the coming years.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
The Netformx Ecosystem

8|14|15   |   09:39   |   (1) comment


Ittai Bareket, CEO of Netformx, talks with Steve Saunders about the Netformx Ecosystem, which employs cutting-edge prescriptive analytics to help solution providers maximize profits.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Versa Networks on Leveraging VNFs

8|12|15   |   07:37   |   (0) comments


Kumar Mehta, founder and CEO of stealth mode startup Versa Networks, talks with Steve Saunders about how providers can best leverage virtualized network functions (VNFs).
LRTV Custom TV
Transforming the Network Through OPNFV

8|5|15   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Sandra Rivera, VP Data Center Group; GM Network Platforms Group, Intel Corporation, on OPNFV Arno and how the industry is coming together to accelerate the deployment of NFV and transform the network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei ONS Product Demo

8|3|15   |   6:01   |   (0) comments


Huawei shows at Open Networking Summit 2015 in Santa Clara how its SDN and NFV solutions embrace openness.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 16, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
November 17, 2015, Santa Clara, California
December 1, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 2, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's cloud and virtualization portfolio can increase business agility and innovation by building a more flexible network architecture.
Hot Topics
T-Mobile CEO Plays Data Traffic Cop
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 8/31/2015
CEO Chat With Bill Gates
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 8/31/2015
Time to Monetize Cable WiFi
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 8/31/2015
Carolina Town Becomes First US 10-Gig City
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 9/3/2015
Eurobites: Anite in OSS Tie-Up With Nokia
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 9/4/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
September 22, 2015
Media Begins With “Me”
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Technology industry veteran Martin Lund joins Metaswitch Networks this week as the company's new CEO. In this interview, Lund discusses his new role and the industry's progress with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders. Lund believes that the industry disruption caused by SDN and NFV is creating opportunities for companies like Metaswitch – network software providers with the agility to embrace new technologies quickly and the ability to deliver on substantial projects for global network operators.
The scene: Last Saturday, lunchtime, the interior of a shi-shi-foo-foo eatery in Manhattan's SoHo district.
Cats with Phones
It's a New Age... Click Here
When smartphones replace stuffed animals.