It coos, it giggles, it finger-wiggles. Watch Pepper, the humanoid android, come alive in this video called Pepper’s Wake Up. It is haunting how alive this thing looks and acts. Without a word it engenders warm feelings and wonder. Could it really be alive? Not likely, but it sure looks like it. No surprise that the first thousand units sold out in only one minute and Chinese investors have plunked 12 billion dollars on developing pepper. But is it just hype?
Pepper is a 121 cm tall, 29kg emotional robot equipped with a camera, 3D sensor on its head, a microphone and a touchscreen on its chest. The robot has a 12 hour battery life, is Wi-Fi enabled, and can cruise around at speeds of 2 km per hour, and makes some pretty other-worldly purring and tinkly sounds. Makers say that the robot is able to recognise and respond to human expressions, emotions, and voices.
They envision that Pepper will stand in as classroom assistants and all-round domestic companion to elderly people and families alike. Pepper currently costs 198,000 yen ($1,608), and businesses will be able to rent it for 1,500 yen ($12) an hour. A selection of 200 robot apps are also available for download.
While SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said he aimed to “bring more smiles to people around the world” with Pepper, Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman Jack Ma imparted more practical insights. “As we enter the data technology era, robotics will become a critical field that catalyzes technological breakthroughs in numerous sectors such as healthcare, public services, research and at home,” he said in a press statement.