An emotionally aware robot called Pepper – which knows when you’re happy or sad – is to go on sale in Japan within months. The humanoid was unveiled at a media event in Tokyo, and can perform a range of tasks ranging from customer service to helping out around the home. It uses an “emotional engine” – powered by a cloud-based artificial intelligence system – to analyse expressions, voice tones and gestures.
Developer SoftBank said Pepper can “make jokes, dance and amuse people thanks to a wide variety of entertainment capabilities”. Company president Masayoshi Son said: “People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart.
“For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions.” It will go on general sale from February next year, costing 198,000 yen ($2,000), and is designed for personal use. From today prototypes of Pepper will be deployed at two of the Softbank’s stores in Tokyo. The robots were developed by French robotics company Aldebaran, in which SoftBank took a stake in 2012. Japan’s overall robotics market was worth about 860bn yen ($8bn) in 2012 and is forecast to more than triple in value by 2020.