Meet Pepper: a robot designed to be your buddy.
Pepper is actually the very first humanoid robot capable of recognizing human emotions and reacting to them. Feeling down? Pepper might do a little dance to cheer you up. Having a good time? Pepper may do something silly to keep the momentum going.
It can be hard to see robots as emotional pals. Even the YouTube video promoting Pepper shows it playing peek-a-boo to cheer up a crying woman — chances are if I’m that distressed, a game of peekaboo with a robot won’t turn that around all too quickly.
But Pepper, which is made by the Japanese company Softbank, has been wildly popular. When it went on sale in Japan, the robot sold out in under a minute. By the end of this year, you’ll have a chance to get your hands on Pepper as well.
“Ultimately, the vision is to have a robot in everybody’s home,” Steve Carlin, vice president of SoftBank Robotics America, told Tech Insider. “That being the final vision, we are plotting now what’s the best way to bring Pepper to the market.”
Carlin said SoftBank will focus on rolling Pepper out in US businesses before trying to get it in the home. Pepper has been used to greet and assist customers at stores in Japan, like Pizza Hut.
“We want to focus there first, and as you get to experience Pepper, and as the market for robotics continues to grow here, then we will be ready to bring it to consumers,” Carlin explained.
Pepper can also play games, keep track of calendar events, and pull information from the internet, in addition to keeping you company. But the robot cannot do any chores around the house.
Developers can also build Pepper apps using Android tools. That will allow programmers to build new features into the four-foot-tall, tablet-wielding robot.
Carlin said allowing developers to build Android apps for Pepper will give it new, creative functions to become the center of a home.
“One quick idea is that Pepper becomes the center for your home’s technology,” he said. “Whether thats the [internet of things] or the connectivity that’s involved there, that Pepper becomes that interface in a lot of ways.”
Carlin said the robot will be available for purchase in the US “later this year”, but declined to give a specific timeline. He also said a price hasn’t been determined yet for the US. The robot sold for roughly $2,000 in Japan.