Skip to main content

Is this the world's first emo robot?

By Madison Park, CNN
updated 11:37 AM EDT, Fri June 6, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Japan's Softbank releases new robot Pepper in its stores
  • Robots are designed to read emotions and interact with humans
  • Pepper will be sold in Japan in February 2015
  • Pepper is designed to make people feel better

(CNN) -- Ever feel like no one really understands you? Well "Pepper" could be about to change all that.

That's because Pepper is actually a robot and touted as the world's first with the ability to read emotions.

The humanoid robot -- which looks slightly like a shrunken Michelin Man -- was unveiled to curious onlookers in Tokyo stores on Friday by SoftBank, a Japanese telecom giant and Aldebaran, a French robotics company.

Pepper doesn't look much like its name. Standing under four-feet tall with a tablet computer mounted to its chest, it has human-like hands and a mermaid-like lower torso — though its toddler-like voice seems incongruous with this state-of-the-art facade.

Despite the high-pitched voice, Pepper is able to converse about everything from the weather, to more sophisticated topics like the latest fluctuations in the stock markets.

A customer leans over to hear Pepper\'s chirpy, childlike voice.
A customer leans over to hear Pepper's chirpy, childlike voice.

Yet the great differentiator is the fact Pepper is fully interactive, making eye contact when meeting people.

Pepper is "the first robot to read human emotions," said Softbank's CEO Masayoshi Son told reporters at a press conference in the Japanese capital on Thursday.

"Robots like Pepper are adding a new dimension in our daily lives. They would change it with the same magnitude as the PC, Internet and mobile phones did."

How Pepper reads your moods

Using its emotion recognition functions, Pepper can react to people in its vicinity -- making jokes, dancing and even rapping (in Japanese), as it did in an onstage demonstration on Thursday.

Pepper can analyze facial expressions, human voice tones and gestures, then react autonomously through algorithms, its creators say.

"Our vision is to create an affectionate robot that can understand people's feelings. Then autonomously, it will take action," said Son.

He envisions robots playing roles in education, healthcare and entertainment, but their primary goal isn't to work in the industry like existing robots.

"Our's is not aiming for productivity, but rather at the home or store, where we provide fun and entertainment," Son said.

Pepper is designed to be a family robot -- perhaps more like a sleeker version of Rosie, the household robot on the cartoon "The Jetsons."

"Pepper is powered by love inside a family," Son said. "Not only is he making jokes, making them laugh. The robot acts out at its own expense, in natural disaster, it can help them and also comfort those people who are sad or lonely, encourage them or make them laugh."

When Pepper goes on sale

Pepper goes on sale in Japan for around US$2,000 in February 2015. For now, several Peppers are at Softbank stores in Tokyo for spectators to visit. The creators say before releasing Pepper for sale, they want the robots to accumulate more knowledge, to evolve and get more sophisticated in its interactions with humans.

"Several thousand Peppers are going to learn at the store," Son said. "Everything they learned and gained, is going to be accumulated into the cloud-based service. So that can be accelerating the evolution of the collective wisdom."

Pepper functions through cloud-based artificial intelligence.

SoftBank and Aldebaran envision the robot being sold overseas eventually. After all, Pepper is quite the polyglot, speaking 17 languages.

CNN's Will Ripley contributed to this report from Tokyo.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:00 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi, leaders of the most populous nations face similar challenges. Can they learn from each other?
updated 6:36 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The U.S. is not returning combat troops to Iraq, President Barack Obama insists.
updated 11:01 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
This is "Flames of War," a slick and ominous new video from the ISIS media center.
updated 8:38 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
A man abducted alongside killed U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff tells CNN that no one from the U.S. government has tried to talk with him.
updated 11:08 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mulatu Astatke is the founding father of ethio-jazz: a fusion of Ethiopian music with western jazz.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Have you been to these? The global museum list, released Tuesday, ranks 25 of the world's best museums.
updated 1:03 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, comes with new features that you'll enjoy.
updated 5:27 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Psychedelic drugs are being researched as a potential treatment for conditions ranging from anxiety to tobacco and alcohol addiction.
updated 9:42 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
It's a surfer's paradise -- but Diah Rahayu is out on her own when it comes to professional women's wave-riding in Bali.
updated 6:04 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT