Softbank enters robotics with emotional humanoid

Jun 5 2014, 3:56am CDT | by

TOKYO (AP) — Softbank Corp. is entering the robotics business with its cooing, gesturing and sympathetic Pepper humanoid-on-wheels that it says is designed for companionship and can decipher human emotions.

The Japanese mobile carrier said Thursday that Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900). Overseas sales plans are under consideration but undecided.

The machine, which has no legs, but has gently gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming. It dramatically touched hands with Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son in a Genesis or "E.T." moment.

Son, who told the crowd that his longtime dream was to go into the personal robot business, said Pepper has been programmed to read the emotions of people around it by recognizing expressions and voice tones.

"Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile," he said.

Cuddly robots are not new in Japan, a nation dominated by "kawaii," or cute culture, but no companion robot has emerged a major market success yet.

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. discontinued the Aibo pet-dog robot in 2006, despite any outcry from its fans. At that time, Sony had developed a child-shaped entertainment robot similar to Pepper but much smaller, capable of dances and other charming moves, which never became a commercial product.

Honda Motor Co. has developed the walking, talking Asimo robot, but that is too sophisticated and expensive for home use, and appears in Honda showrooms and gala events only. Even then, it is prone to glitches because of its complexity.

Many other Japanese companies, including Hitachi Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp., not to mention universities and startups, have developed various robots, big and small, that entertain and serve as companions.

There is little emphasis on delivering on practical work, in contrast to industrial robots at factories and military robots for war.

But the potential is great for intelligent machines as the number of elderly requiring care is expected to soar in rapidly-aging Japan in coming years. Robotics are already used to check on the elderly and monitor their health and safety, but they might also play a role in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The 121 centimeter (48 inch) tall, 28 kilogram (62 pound) white Pepper, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest, was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which designs, produces and sells autonomous humanoid robots.

Besides featuring the latest voice recognition, Pepper is loaded with more than a dozen sensors, including two touch sensors in its hands, three touch sensors on its head, and six laser sensors and three bumper sensors in its base.

It also has two cameras and four microphones on its head and has Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking capabilities.

In Thursday's demonstration, Pepper sang, "I want to be loved."

Softbank said Pepper can dance and tell jokes. The machine will be on display starting Friday at Softbank retailers, the company said.

Softbank, which now owns Sprint of the U.S. and boasts more than 100 million subscribers globally, has been growing rapidly as a mobile carrier in Japan, boosted by being the first to offer Apple's iPhone.

Pepper was jointly developed with Aldebaran Robotics, which has offices in France, China, Japan and the U.S. and is 78.5 percent owned by Softbank.

"I've believed that the most important role of robots will be as kind and emotional companions to enhance our daily lives, to bring happiness, constantly surprise us and make people grow," said Bruno Maisonnier, founder and chief executive of Aldebaran, who appeared on the stage with Son.

Aldebaran has produced more than 5,000 of its Nao humanoid, its first product, which is used for research and educational purposes.

Pepper can get information from cloud-based databases and comes with safety features to avoid crashes and falls, and its capabilities can grow by installing more robot applications, according to Softbank.

___

Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osD6O4LAcpo

___

Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama

 
 
 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Associated Press</a>
The Associated Press (AP) is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

UN chief slams terror attacks in Syria
United Nations, Oct 2 (IANS) UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the twin bomb attacks near a school in Syria that killed 31 people. Several children were among those killed in the Wednesday attack in the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
C.J. Spillman Being Investigated for Sexual Assault
Dallas Cowboys safety C.J. Spillman is being investigated for sexual assault.According to ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer, the alleged incident took place at the Gaylord Hotel on Sept. 20, a day before the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Zach Braff defends Kickstarter project
Zach Braff has hit back at criticism of his Kiskstarter project. The multimillionaire actor and filmmaker - who is best known for playing the character of Dr. John Dorian on US sitcom 'Scrubs' - felt his the response to...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Modi visit very successful: US think tank
Washington, Oct 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit was "very successful" on many counts as he reached out to various interest groups in the US in unprecedented ways, according to a leading US think tank...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
IOC 'satisfied' with Rio 2016 preparations
Rio de Janeiro, Oct 2 (IANS) The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was 'satisfied' with the state of preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. IOC representatives completed a three-day visit of Rio...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Asian Games: Indian women paddlers Manika, Ankita ousted
Incheon, Oct 2 (IANS) Indian women paddlers Manika Batra and Ankita Das lost their respective matches and were knocked out of the women's singles table tennis event of the 17th Asian Games here Thursday. Manika was...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
With Modi momentum, US seeks enhanced energy collaboration
Washington, Oct 2 (IANS) With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi "providing a new momentum", the US has suggested four areas where India and the US can enhance collaboration in energy and sustainable development. "We...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Indian women's kabaddi team in final
Incheon, Oct 2 (IANS) Defending champion India stayed on course for their second consecutive Asian Games gold medal in women's kabaddi as they marched into the final, beating Thailand 41-28 in the semi-final at the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Obama very pleased with Modi visit
Washington, Oct 2 (IANS) President Barack Obama was "very pleased" with and "enjoyed" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit as it reflected the depth of the strong relationship between the US and India, according to the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Leonardo DiCaprio won't have a joint birthday party with Kate Winslet
Leonardo DiCaprio refuses to have a joint 40th birthday party with Kate Winslet. The 'Divergent' star - who will celebrate the milestone in October 2015 - has been close friends with the actor for almost 20 years and he...
Read more on Celebrity Balla