Saturday, January 31, 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

Solano County confirms 1st local case of measles

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: A1, 3 Comments

 
SPCA begins caring for more than 100 rescued dogs

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
 
Top workers, top students – and succulent crab

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Partial Fairfield freeway road closure starts Monday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

 
DUI patrols set for Super Bowl Sunday

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

Armijo students savor catered Fuddruckers lunch

By Susan Hiland And Susan Winlow | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 29, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 29, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
.

US / World

Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

 
Man charged in California family’s deaths will be own lawyer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

Yosemite park fee hikes coming in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
San Francisco coroner says human remains are from 1 man

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

PG&E releases thousands of emails with state regulators

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Judge expresses doubt about constitutionality of no-fly list

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

French fracture laid bare as 8-year-old praises terrorists

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US mulls Middle East-North Africa category for 2020 Census

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Balloon crew makes history crossing Pacific Ocean

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Murder trial begins 35 years after 6-year-old vanished in NY

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Judge: Funeral home wrongly sold Lee Harvey Oswald’s casket

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Jordan awaits proof hostage is alive after swap deadline

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
 
.

Opinion

 
GOP should plan for post-Obamacare world

By Ramesh Ponnuru | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 31, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Solano College news makes me sick

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 2 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 31, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 31, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Jan. 31, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

 
My recently widowed mother is already thinking about re-marrying

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B7

Five ways 3D-printed food will change the way we eat

By The Washington Post | From Page: B10, 1 Comment

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Rod McKuen, mega-selling poet and performer, dies at 81

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Miranda Lambert leads ACM Awards with 8 nominations

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Shakira gives birth to 2nd baby with Spanish football star

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
List: 10 Super Bowl ads you’ll be talking about

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Hayward, Utah Jazz upset Golden State Warriors 110-100

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
LeBron returns, Love, Irving team for 44, as Cavs top Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs ride away from Indian’s home court with 66-60 victory

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Laird leads as Tiger shoots 82 and misses the cut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Seau, Warner, Pace first-time Hall eligibles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Djokovic beats Wawrinka to reach fifth Australian Open final

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

N.H. Speedway general manager faces lewdness charge

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kings’ Cousins to replace Kobe Bryant in All-Star game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Judge: Jury can watch Super Bowl unless Hernandez mentioned

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Blackhawks Hall of Famer Stan Mikita has brain disorder

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Ko takes lead at LPGA opener, closes in on golf history

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Carroll says decision is Sherman’s if baby arrives early

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

NFL’s Goodell seeks to look past ‘tough year,’ to future

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 31, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Business

US consumer confidence at highest level in a decade

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Companies steering clear of Super Bowl name

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Anneliese Edith (Luckner) Fraser

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Anthony Neal Hunley

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Frank Z. Perez

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Joe Lambert Robinson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Otilia (Tela) Quinn

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Danica Gojkovich Ryder

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

WillIiam “Bill” Hunter

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Garry A. Britton

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Home Seller 1/31/2015

Quirky add-ons a common feature of celebrity homes

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR2

Real estate transactions for Jan. 31, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: HSR3

5 ways to make a kitchen more germ-free

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3

Average US rate on 30-year mortgage rises to 3.66 percent

By The Associated Press | From Page: HSR3