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.
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?
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Custom TV
Razorsight Expert's Advice on Real-Time Analytics

11|27|14   |   1:43   |   (0) comments


Razorsight's powerful cloud-based Predictive Analytics solutions are used by the world's leading communications and media brands to drive smarter decisions, enable faster actions and optimize outcomes. Get expert advice.
LRTV Interviews
From 4G to 5G: Alcatel-Lucent's Dave Geary

11|25|14   |   09:09   |   (1) comment


Dave Geary, President of Wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, talks about the evolution of the 4G market, small cells, partnerships, 5G and the IoT.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Secure Telefonica Network With Huawei's High-End Firewall

11|24|14   |   4:37   |   (0) comments


Andrew Davies, IP architect of the Telefonica, a leading digital communications company, discusses the Huawei security gateway solution and putting the solution into the testbed.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partners with Spirent to Verify CE12816's 10GE Port & TRILL Networking Capabilities

11|24|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Spirent Communications is the world's leading supplier for telecom testing appliances and solutions. Spirent has been in a close partnership with Huawei for a long time.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Airlines & Its ICT Transformation

11|24|14   |   2:07   |   (0) comments


In this video, Saudi Airlines discusses its network problems and how Huawei's Agile Network is its all-in-one solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Switch Benefiting Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital

11|24|14   |   2:40   |   (0) comments


Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital speaks about how Huawei's Agile Switch has improved the medical service's network infrastructure.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FanPlay & Huawei Build a Wireless Agile Smart Stadium

11|24|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


FanPlay is a cloud-based white label service, which is effectively a football fan engagement platform underpinned by mobile payment technology.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building an Agile Stadium

11|24|14   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Stadiums may be thousands of tons of concrete and steel, but they now need to be agile. Being at the stadium may not be as alluring as it once was. Sports franchises and stadium operators discuss how to get fans back.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Helps ChinaCache Tackle Challenges in the Internet Industry

11|24|14   |   3:09   |   (0) comments


ChinaCache is China's largest content distribution network supplier. Huawei's CE12800 has provided ChinaCache with very strong support in its establishment of an infrastructure network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Cefinity on Managed Security Services & Next-Generation Firewall

11|24|14   |   7:05   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a cloud management service provider in Southeast Asia. Ivan Zhang, CEO of the company, discusses the implementation of security service management in the cloud era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Gateway in the Eyes of Cefinity

11|24|14   |   2:11   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a managed service provider for enterprise networks. The company currently uses Huawei's AR series routers for the most complete range of functions. CEO Ivan Zhang speaks about the advantages of the AR series routers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
CTO of Bus-Online Talks About Huawei's Agile Gateway

11|24|14   |   2:53   |   (0) comments


Bus-Online covers around 100 million users everyday. In addition to providing mobile TV, and advertising services to the public, Bus-Online has also entered the field of mobile Internet.
Upcoming Live Events
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 8-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Irish Telecom outlines the rise of VoIP technology, including its adoption within businesses and their perception of its quality.
Hot Topics
Net Neutrality Even Mark Cuban Could Love
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/26/2014
Why 5G Is a Different Beast
Robert Clark, 11/26/2014
Do You Have a 2020 Vision?
Dennis Mendyk, Vice President of Research, Heavy Reading, 11/21/2014
Eurobites: Net Neutrality Battle Looms
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 11/27/2014
New Juniper CEO Can Be Thankful for $14.5M
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 11/25/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed