Pepper, The 'World's First Emotional Robot,' Goes on Sale This Weekend

Thursday, 18 June 2015 - 2:17PM
Technology
Robotics
Thursday, 18 June 2015 - 2:17PM
Pepper, The 'World's First Emotional Robot,' Goes on Sale This Weekend
Pepper, the adorable, uncanny valley-free personal robot from Softbank, was once touted as the first personal robot to have the ability to read human emotion. Now, the robot is going to be available to Japanese consumers starting this weekend, with one significant update. Softbank claims that Pepper can not only read emotions, but can feel and express emotions of its own.



Last year, Softbank demonstrated that Pepper could interpret gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice in order to recognize different emotions in its owners. This new function was intended to allow Pepper to perform functions that require some measure of compassion (or a good imitation of compassion), such as elderly care. Now, Pepper's creators believe they have done us one better, and have allowed the robot to respond to our emotions with feelings of its own.

"In conjunction with the sales launch, Pepper will not only be able to read emotions - Pepper has evolved to have emotions," Softbank wrote in a press release. "Pepper's emotions use emotion functions developed by cocoro SB Corp. that enable robots to artificially generate their own emotions."

Softbank claims that the "emotion functions" of Pepper's software are modeled after hormonal release in the human brain. According to the company, Pepper processes data from its cameras, touch sensors, accelerators, and more in its "endocrine-type multi-layer neural network" in order to generate an "emotional" response, making it a perfect candidate for elderly care or general family companionship.

Softbank explained Pepper's "emotions" further: "Pepper's emotions are influenced by people's facial expressions and words, as well as his surroundings, which in turn affects Pepper's words and actions. For example, Pepper is at ease when he is around people he knows, happy when he is praised, and gets scared when the lights go down. Depending on the emotion at the time, Pepper raises his voice or sighs, for example. Pepper's emotions can be seen on the heart display, which shows different colors and movements."

It's quite a claim that Pepper has "emotions," as artificial intelligence theorists often cite emotion as the hurdle robotics will never be able to cross and neuroscientists and philosophers alike can scarcely conceive of what emotions actually are. If Pepper truly had human-like "feelings," one would at least expect that it would cost more than $1,600 (a hefty price tag, but probably not enough for the biggest development in the history of AI). It's more likely that Pepper simply does the best imitation of emotional response that AI has to offer right now, much like another Japanese robot, the utterly endearing "lonely" astronaut Kirobo.

Or at least we should hope so, because a legitimately "emotional" robot would introduce a whole host of ethical problems. Is $1,600 enough to buy your very own sentient slave these days?

Via Gizmodo.
Science
Artificial Intelligence
Technology
Robotics

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