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Future Tech: 

Pepper, the ‘robot with a heart’ on sale next year

Pepper robot heart emotion

Who said robots don’t have feelings? Look at those eyes

Meet Pepper, the latest humanoid robot hoping to be welcomed into homes and hearts when it goes on sale in the US next summer.

It’s Japanese manufacturers, SoftBank, have described Pepper as the “World’s first personal robot with emotions” and taking one look into those big round eyes we’re inclined to believe them. The robot is not only capable of fluid intelligent movement, but its also a natural dancer and can apparently tell jokes – although let’s wait to hear those before booking him in for the Edinburgh Festival. Most impressively, though, the robot is said to learn from human interaction and behaviours, studying gestures and speech patterns to help it read our emotions.

Softbank expects there to be equal interest in Pepper from businesses and consumers, offering both assistance and companionship depending on your need. Not interested in a robot companion? Perhaps the below video will change your mind…

First announced during a press conference in June, Pepper will be released in Japan first, costing just ¥198,000 (around $1,930). The humanoid will then land in the US next summer, although no fixed price has been revealed.

As well as the startling capabilities that will be programmed in on launch, SoftBank will also open its robot to developers to enhance its potential with apps. A software development kit will be provided for interested parties later this year – so who knows the limitations to Pepper’s potential? Whatever the result, we can feel ourselves warming to the little guy already.

But Pepper isn’t the first robot to win our hearts…

From WALL-E to C3PO, human-like robots have long been stars of the silver screen, but which humanoids in real-life have come closest to matching Pepper? Remember these?

ASIMO

Perhaps most memorable is Honda’s ASIMO, first introduced to the world back in 2000. The robot has been updated a number of times and is still often used in demonstrations to encourage the study of science and mathematics. Despite its noble intentions, though, it’ll ultimately be best remembered for falling down a set of stairs.

AIBO

Another very popular robot from recent history is Sony’s AIBO – the robot dog. In truth, though, AIBO always felt fairly limited and it’s no surprise the product line was discontinued in the mid 00s – making room for the newer, more useful robots of the smart-everything era.

JIBO

That includes JIBO, which was the subject of an Indiegogo campaign earlier this year and smashed its $100,000 target, raising over $1,800,000. It looks a bit like Pixar’s iconic lamp come to life, and its makers have described it as the “world’s first family robot” – capable of engaging in casual conversation and performing a variety of household tasks. Watch out Pepper, you’ve got competition.

Toyota’s Robot violinist

Toyota clearly didn’t read the rules when it came to naming its violin-playing robot, which clearly state that all humanoids need to be 4-5 characters long, upper case, and end in the letter O. We don’t think too much of its violin skills either, which are admittedly good for a robot, but this rendition of Elgar’s ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ ain’t got no soul.

Meka robotics S2

If its robotic expression you’re after, then, look no further than Meka Robotics’ S2. This humanoid head has staggeringly detailed Anime-like features and can be attached to a torso and arm also designed by Meka. Wait long enough, and they may get around to building a whole robot.

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