Thursday, March 5, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Emotional robot set for sale in Japan next year

By
From page B9 | June 08, 2014 |

TOKYO — A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile.

Son’s mobile phone company Softbank said Thursday that the robot it has dubbed Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900). Overseas sales plans are under consideration but undecided.

The machine, which has no legs, but has gently gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming. It dramatically touched hands with Son in a Genesis or “E.T.” moment.

Son, who told the crowd that his longtime dream was to go into the personal robot business, said Pepper has been programmed to read the emotions of people around it by recognizing expressions and voice tones.

“Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile,” he said.

The 121 centimeter (48 inch) tall, 28 kilogram (62 pound) white Pepper, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest, was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which produces autonomous humanoid robots.

Besides featuring the latest voice recognition, Pepper is loaded with more than a dozen sensors, including two touch sensors in its hands, three touch sensors on its head, and six laser sensors and three bumper sensors in its base.

It also has two cameras and four microphones on its head and has Wi-Fi and Ethernet networking capabilities.

But a demonstration Friday at a Softbank retailer in Tokyo highlighted the robot’s shortcomings as much as its charm.

Voice recognition takes a while to kick in, when its eyes light up in a listening mode after the robot stops talking, making for less than spontaneous dialogue, similar to the frustration one experiences talking with iPhone’s Siri.

Pepper was obviously more at ease going into its own chatter, such as asking “Do you do Twitter?” or “Is this the first time you ever spoke to a robot?” But it wouldn’t really wait for an answer, rattling on to the next topic.

Sometimes the robot — which, up close, bears a resemblance to C-3PO in “Star Wars,” especially in its clueless look — failed to catch a speaker’s words and would say: “I could not hear you. Could you say that again?”

When a person shouted in a big voice to test out how well it read emotions, it didn’t do much except to say: “You look like an honest person.”

In Thursday’s demonstration, Pepper sang, “I want to be loved,” and it did more singing and gesturing with its hands Friday.

But all its song-and-dance acts seemed to prove was that the machine needs to learn a lot more tricks to impress robot-savvy Japanese. The Softbank shop barely drew a crowd besides a pack of reporters with their cameras.

Cuddly robots are not new in Japan, a nation dominated by “kawaii,” or cute culture, but no companion robot has emerged as a major market success yet.

Japanese electronics and entertainment company Sony Corp. discontinued the Aibo pet-dog robot in 2006, despite an outcry from its fans. At that time, Sony had developed a child-shaped entertainment robot similar to Pepper but much smaller, capable of dances and other charming moves, which never became a commercial product.

Honda Motor Co. has developed the walking, talking Asimo robot, but that is too sophisticated and expensive for home use, and appears in Honda showrooms and gala events only. Even then, it is prone to glitches because of its complexity.

Many other Japanese companies, including Hitachi Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp., not to mention universities and startups, have developed various robots, big and small, which entertain and serve as companions.

There is little emphasis on delivering on practical work, in contrast to industrial robots at factories and military robots for war.

But the potential is great for intelligent machines as the number of elderly requiring care is expected to soar in rapidly-aging Japan in coming years. Robotic technology is already used to check on the elderly and monitor their health and safety, but robots might also play a role in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Softbank, which now owns Sprint of the U.S. and boasts more than 100 million subscribers globally, has been growing rapidly as a mobile carrier in Japan, boosted by being the first to offer Apple’s iPhone.

Aldebaran Robotics, which has offices in France, China, Japan and the U.S., is 78.5 percent owned by Softbank.

“I’ve believed that the most important role of robots will be as kind and emotional companions to enhance our daily lives, to bring happiness, constantly surprise us and make people grow,” said Bruno Maisonnier, founder and chief executive of Aldebaran, who appeared on the stage with Son.

Aldebaran has produced more than 5,000 of its Nao humanoid, its first product, which is used for research and educational purposes.

Pepper can get information from cloud-based databases and comes with safety features to avoid crashes and falls, and its capabilities can grow by installing more robot applications, according to Softbank.

___

Online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osD6O4LAcpo

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Show resilience in the face of adversity

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

 
Students sample industry choices during school career fair

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Real McCoy II Ferry set for maintenance

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

 
Vacaville police slate annual awards ceremony

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

Limited damage to apartment from carport fire

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Red Carpet Gala to benefit theater foundation

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Pet remembrance event set in Vallejo

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Friday concert benefits Families Helping Families

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Vallejo police arrest 4 in connection with 3 killings

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A4

 
National Red Cross Month celebrates heroes

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Il Fiorello schedules citrus class

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Jury convicts ex-con who served as own lawyer

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A4

 
Suisun City police log: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Fairfield police log: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
.

US / World

Justices sharply divided over health care law subsidies

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
 
California lawmaker pushes child care worker vaccinations

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Children in Southern California breathing easier, study says

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Failures by 3 governments preceded homeless man’s death

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Second Los Angeles hospital reports ‘superbug’ infections

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
A defiant Alabama regains ground against gay marriage

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

How much sugar is in that? 7 foods with added sugar

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Obama signs Homeland Security funding bill into law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
House panel issues subpoena for Clinton’s personal emails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Microsoft co-founder says he found sunken Japan WWII warship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Coal mine blast kills at least 24 in war-torn east Ukraine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6 | Gallery

.

Living

Today in History: March 5, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: March 5, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: March 5, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
I can’t tell if I still want to be married, or just don’t want to be alone

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

DiCaprio partners with Netflix for series of documentaries

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ tops MTV Movie Awards nominations

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

Glen Campbell children fighting wife’s control of affairs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
.

Sports

 
Posey has 2-run double in Giants’ 9-2 loss to A’s

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Local report: Vanden softball slips by Rodriguez with late run

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Curry shoots Warriors to 102-93 victory over Bucks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
With Peterson’s status in question, Vikings pay a visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL stadium supporters in LA suburb file ballot paperwork

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Alex Johnson, AL batting champ in 1970, dies at age 72

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Goodell: NFL responsible for Super Bowl seating problems

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Former player Nate Jackson calls for NFL to allow marijuana

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Phoenix to install tire barriers before NASCAR visit

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Pirelli sticks with same tire choices for first 4 F1 races

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP Source: Peyton Manning returning for 18th NFL season

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NCAA reports big jump in home runs with new flat-seam ball

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

MLS, players agree in principle to 5-year deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prosecutors can’t bring up Florida shooting in ex-NFLer case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Vikings agree to trade Cassel to Bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Scott opens a season of change at Doral

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

‘It WAS him': Defense admits Tsarnaev bombed Boston Marathon

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

Aaron D. Malave

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Cesar Luis Garcia-Regalado

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

Rodolfo Landabora Porquez

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
.

Comics

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9