While Russia and the U.N. are worrying about autonomous destructive military robots, Japan is making a happy, cooing robot. Japanese billionaire/robot enthusiast Masayoshi Son said his robot is tender and will make its owner smile. That's why he Pepper, which introduced to the world on Thursday.
Son said his "aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile." Pepper was partially a pet project, and partially a reaction to "kawaii" (cute) culture: think Hello Kitty and adult women in pink tutus. There are other cuddly robots on the Japanese market, but Pepper will be the first mainstream robot available to the masses.
Son owns a mobile phone company, so he had the technological basis and finances to get into the robot business. His longtime dream was to create a personal robot, so he made Pepper. Pepper the robot hits the Japanese market in February for 198,000 yen, or about $1,900 USD. It's unclear when or if it'll come to the U.S. or Europe.
Pepper has feelings, kind of. It can recognize facial expressions and voice tones, which help it read the emotions of the people around it. Then, Pepper can comfort you if need be. Pepper is very calming, it can coo and hum, and hold your hand. It's a robot that really wants a hug (which is exactly as creepy as you're imaging.)
Pepper is pretty cute for a robot, with large, doll-like eyes. Pepper has a flat screen on its chest, two cameras and four microphones on its head. It's wi-fi enabled and has Ethernet capabilities. It can draw information from cloud databases, so while it cannot "learn," it can regularly draw upon existing information and be installed with applications. It can also take care of itself, for the most part. It is programmed with safety features that keep it from falling over and crashing.
And, because of course, it can sing. Son had his personal Pepper sing "I want to be loved." He also had Pepper dance and tell some jokes.
Pepper just wants to love you. (To death probably.)