Pepper, world’s first emotional robot, was unveiled this week by Aldebaran Robotics, a company well-known for its NAO and Romeo humanoid robot creations. The humanoid robot can analyse voice tonality and inflections of humans communicating with it, gestures and even facial expressions, and react based on all these inputs, creating a very close to natural type of interaction. For this purpose the robot employs an emotional engine, aided by a type of cloud-based artificial intelligence system, enabling the robot to learn and thus providing better responses over time.
Bruno Maisonnier, founder of Aldebaran, stated that it took over two years to develop the Pepper emotional robot. It was created for SoftBank Corporation, a Japanese tech and telecommunications giant and will be mass-produced by the well-known electronics manufacturer Foxconn. Softbank is employing Pepper robot prototypes at two of its stores since Friday, with the purpose of aiding customers, and plans to commercially release it to the Japanese market since next year. The personal humanoid robot will be for sale at a very friendly price tag of 198 000 Yen (about 2,000 US Dollars or 1500 Euro), although skeptics say the price will be higher.
The marketing choice is not random as Japan is one of the world’s biggest robot markets, estimated at over US$ 8 billion, and continues to grow. An important reason is the aging population and decreasing birth rate, making demand for personal assistance robots to continuously rise.
Every Pepper robot will upload relevant data from its interactions to the cloud-based system or “Cloud AI”, as referred by Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son. All robots will be able to make use of this collective intelligence to provide an increasingly better experience the more people interact with them.
“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.”
— SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son
In terms of software, the Pepper robot is very similar to the already popular NAO humanoid robot, they both employ the same NAOqi framework which handles lower level tasks, allowing for developers to get creative with programming advanced robot functionality.
At the unveiling event in Tokyo, Pepper showcased extremely natural and fluid movements thanks to its 20 motors, controlled by Aldebaran Robotics‘ proprietary algorithm which determines forces on each body segment, based on current consumption of each motor, as well as motor positioning information read with Hall effect sensors.
The 1,2 meter tall robot has a rolling base and features a chest-mounted touch-sensitive display. It is packed with no less than 25 sensors and cameras, and has an operating time of over 12 hours on a single charge. You can view the full specs in the table below.
|Dimensions||1,210mm (height) × 425mm (depth) × 485mm (width)|
|Battery||Lithium-ion battery, Capacity: 30 Ah/795 Wh, Operation time: approx. over 12 hrs (when using at shop)|
|Head||Mic × 4, RGB camera × 2, 3D sensor × 1, Touch sensor × 3|
|Chest||Gyro sensor × 1|
|Hands||Touch sensor × 2|
|Legs||Sonar sensor × 2, Laser sensor × 6, Bumper sensor × 3, Gyro sensor × 1|
|Moving parts||Degrees of motion: Head (2°), Shoulder (2°) (L&R), Elbow (2 rotations) (L&R), Wrist (1°) (L&R), hand 5 fingers (1°) (L&R), Hip (2°), knee (1°), base (3°) — 20 Motors|
|Display||10.1-inch touch display|
|Networking||Wi-Fi: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz/5GHz), Ethernet × 1 (10/100/1000 base T)|
|Motion speed||Up to 3 km/h|
|Climbing||Up to 1.5 cm|
Aldebaran aims to make the Pepper an open platform, an API will be released later this year as well as an SDK. They also plan to organize a developers conference in September this year, to offer an in-depth view of the Pepper platform’s features.
Below you can watch Pepper the emotional robot perform at the event, the official presentation video, as well as additional resources. What do you think about living with such a robot?
Official presentation of the Pepper robot
Pepper performing at the unveiling event