At one point or another in our childhood, we all dreamed of having a robot in our household when we grew up. Even though technology has advanced rapidly lately, we still find the concept of a family robot a bit too far fetched of way too futuristic.
It seems though that this preconception might not be valid any more, as the biggest barrier in robotic technology has been broken.
Japanese company Softbank alongside French company Aldebaran, have created the world’s first Robot capable of understanding human gestures, expressions, and tone of voice. The robot goes by the name Pepper, and stands a little over 3 feet high on a wheeled base.
Pepper is set to be used in several retail outlets in Japan as customer service bots. The cloud based operating system Pepper uses, allows it to comprehend the customers’ emotions, which in turn will change the way how it behaves depending on the customer’s mood (Voice and face recognition will play the biggest role in this aspect).
The design was inspired by the Japanese cartoon, Astro Boy. The eyes of the robot are large and follow you were ever you are. Sensors within the eyes are capable of motion tracking and 3D depth perception. There are four microphones mounted on Pepper’s head, which are able of comprehending sound source direction and position. There are also two high definition cameras fitted in the face, and a set of speakers mounted at the sides. Pepper is able to speak and understand Japanese, French, English, and Spanish till now.
There are touch sensors located on the head, hands, and at the base of the robot. Pepper’s hands are not capable of lifting of gripping (at the moment), but it’s arms are capable of very fluid movement. The wheel base allows pepper to rotate on the spot, which allows for better movement in restricted spaces. Navigation is aided by an on-board sonar, bump sensors, and laser guides. The battery pack will allow Peeper to operate non-stop for twelve hours straight.
Pepper is in no way ready to become our personal butler, but it is the first step at creating a house hold robot in the very near future. The simple fact that Pepper will be used as a customer service bot in retail stores will allow the public to feel at ease interacting with such a device, and companies will be able to learn more on the technology involved.