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
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
Networks of the future will rely on "white box" switches and servers rather than proprietary hardware and that's going to alter the shape of the communications industry. Who says so? John Chambers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
eLTE Rapid Meets the Need for Speed

3|26|15   |   4:45   |   (0) comments


Designed especially for emergency and dedicated ad hoc local mobile communications coverage, Huawei's eLTE Rapid solution can deliver trunked voice, video and data coverage for multiple users over a 6km range and be set up in just 15 minutes, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
On Videos: Challenges & Opportunities

3|26|15   |   5:56   |   (0) comments


Most everything is now connected. And along with 4K and 4G technologies, everyone could be creating and broadcasting video contents. Users are expecting better video experience with any screen, anywhere and anytime. Operators will meet new challenges, but also see some big opportunities.
LRTV Custom TV
JDSU: Delivering Dynamic Networks for a Personalized Experience

3|26|15   |   5:59   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks to JDSU at Mobile World Congress 2015 about new solutions in the areas of HetNets, VoLTE, backhaul, virtualization, big data analytics, and real-time intelligence.
LRTV Custom TV
Smarter Service Chaining & New Ways to Benefit From Qosmos Technology

3|25|15   |   03:11   |   (0) comments


David Le Goff, director of strategic and product marketing at Qosmos, explains how the company has added application awareness to subscriber information to make service chaining more efficient and reduce costs for networking and infrastructure. In addition, Qosmos technology, which has been delivered as C libraries, is now also available as a virtual machine, ...
Between the CEOs
Qosmos CEO: The Changing Face of DPI

3|24|15   |   13:53   |   (0) comments


LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures. Also, how the comms market is becoming more like the automotive industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FC Schalke Scores With Its Agile Stadium

3|24|15   |   6:23   |   (0) comments


Top German soccer club FC Schalke 04 has deployed a new, agile WiFi network from Huawei in its Veltins-Arena stadium and is reaping the benefits in terms of customer satisfaction and business opportunities, explains marketing chief Alexander Jobst.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Insights on Mobile Video

3|24|15   |   7:51   |   (0) comments


More people than ever are now watching videos on smartphones. Seventy percent of mobile traffic will be video traffic until 2018. In this video, Huawei's exports give their insights on mobile video in terms of business model, network planning and 4G network construction.
LRTV Documentaries
The Rise of Industry 4.0

3|24|15   |   02:26   |   (8) comments


Are you ready for the fourth industrial revolution? It's a big deal for influential operators such as Deutsche Telekom.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Getting Connected With eLTE

3|23|15   |   06:04   |   (0) comments


Trunked radio communications have entered the 4G LTE world, and with Huawei's eLTE solution, can now deliver a full range of data and video services as well as push-to-talk voice, explains Huawei's Norman Frisch.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Funkwerk’s on Track With Huawei

3|19|15   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


GSM-R technology specialist Funkwerk and Huawei have forged a partnership that is benefiting both parties, notes Funkwerk's Gottfried Winter.
LRTV Documentaries
How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions

3|18|15   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Carsten Rossenhövel, managing director of independent test lab EANTC, tells Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the innovative approach his team had to take when validating Cisco's service provider virtualization and cloud solutions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Converged Communications: Working Simply & Smartly

3|17|15   |   03.24   |   (0) comments


Edwin Diender, CTO of Huawei's Enterprise Switch & Communications division, outlines the four main pillars of Huawei's unified communications portfolio and explains how the addition of 4K video capabilities has helped Huawei develop a groundbreaking videoconferencing solution.
Upcoming Live Events
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 5, 2015, Hyatt McCormick Place, Chicago, IL
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Women in Tech Coming Into Focus
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/20/2015
Will Open Source Groups Keep Windows Open?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/20/2015
Google Hires Wall Street's Most Influential Woman as CFO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 3/24/2015
The Rise of Industry 4.0
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 3/24/2015
Net Neutrality Suits: Only The Beginning?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 3/24/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
LR CEO and Founder Steve Saunders sits down with the head of Qosmos to talk about the changing state of the art in deep packet inspection technology, including its role in SDN and NFV architectures.
Chattanooga’s EPB publicly owned utility comms company has become a poster child for how to enable a local economy using next-gen networking technology. Steve Saunders, Founder of Light Reading, sits down with Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, to learn how EPB is bringing big time tech to small town America.
Cats with Phones
More Is More Click Here
T-Mobile's Buy One Get One Free deal was too much for Fluffy to pass up. He decided more was more.
Latest Comment