It’s true, all you need is a little TLC (Tender Loving Care). At least that’s what 1,000 people need, a little robotic affection. When Pepper, the humanoid robot when on sale on Saturday in Japan, the 1,000 available units sold out online in one minute.
Designed by robotics group Aldebaran for SoftBank, Pepper is a robot designed to live and interact with humans. Standing just under four feet tall and weighing 61 pounds, Pepper is designed to read emotions as well as recognize tones of voice and facial expressions in order to interact with humans. Most of all, “he tries to make you happy,” Kaname Hayashi, SoftBank’s project manager, told CNN last year. “Pepper will help people grow, enhance their life, facilitate relationships, he will have fun with them, give some services and connect them with the outside world.” The robot will even develop a personality of its own, based on how humans interact with it. It will be happy when it is given attention, and irritable when it is not.
Pepper is able to analyze facial expression, body language and words through its sensors, as well as adapt its behaviour and mannerisms to suit the person it’s with. He has an array of cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer, and other sensors in his “endocrine-type multi-layer neural network.” He isn’t a working robot, but more of an emotional companion for people. “Pepper is at ease when he is with people he knows, happy when praised and scared when the lights go down.” Developers admit that the robot may make mistakes, but says Pepper will learn and grow over time through his own emotional engine and collective wisdom gained through collected cloud data. Pepper, the robot will become a very clever companion. Developers say Pepper will become smarter day by day.
The robot’s base price is currently 198,000 yen, around US $1,613.51, but data and insurance fees push the price up further. Since the initial batch of robots have been soldout, those in search of a robotic friend will have to wait until July, when the company aims to make more available. The CEO of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son said that the company will not make a profit on Pepper for at least four years, as the robot costs more to manufacture than its sale price.