Pepper the $2000 “Emotional” Robot Is On His Way to the USA. But How Smart Is He, Really?

Robot lovers in Japan can’t seem to get enough of the ultra-cute Pepper robot.  Despite his expensive price tag, he’s been flying off the shelves.  SoftBank can barely keep up with the growing demand for this unique, goofy little robot.

Pepper is currently on a worldwide tour.  He landed landed in the US yesterday and he’ll be at a Palo Alto store called B8ta until the 18th.

What Can Pepper Do?

If the commercials are to be believed, Pepper…

1. Wiggles his fingers at you when you’re sad

Apparently Pepper’s cheeky pre-programmed dances are supposed to help you overcome emotional trauma.

can pepper sense human emotions

2.  Submits to being pointed and laughed at

Pepper is programmed to endure mild trolling.

pepper-birthday-party-trolling

3.  Walks away before he explodes in a fit of murderous robo-rage

Let’s just hope that Pepper isn’t capable of secretly compiling an electronic sh*t list of everyone who humiliates him.

trolling pepper

4.  Stares at babies

Pepper’s baby monitoring abilities might help save lives.  But still, it’s a little creepy to imagine a black-eyed robot staring at your son or daughter all night long.

is your baby breathing

Is Pepper Still Too Ditzy for Prime Time?

Back in May, Pepper visited the UK’s Financial Times.   Managing editor Robert Shrimsley attempted to interview the childlike bot.  Despite lots of help from Pepper’s entourage, the conversation was a bit… awkward.

Shrimsley: “Would you like to come in and meet the editor?”

Pepper: “Maybe another time.”

SoftBank blamed the clumsy interactions on Pepper’s lack of English fluency.  Later on in the interview, they switched to Japanese and brought in a translator.

First, Pepper told Shrimsley about the weather.  (Yawn.)  Then, Pepper nagged him about the importance of eating his vegetables.

When Shrimsley sat down to type, Pepper wouldn’t stop dancing.  After a few minutes, Shrimsley got fed up and ordered Pepper to leave him alone.

Will US Consumers Love Pepper As Much As the Japanese Do?

Unless SoftBank has made significant upgrades since May, Pepper’s AI isn’t going to blow anyone away. However, Pepper may just be cute enough to enjoy viral success on the internet once people start uploading Vine videos and YouTube clips of Pepper doing and saying hilarious things.

Right now, Pepper is selling for JPY 198,000.  That’s $1,931 USD.  Two thousand bucks is hefty price tag for what’s essentially a cute robot toy.

SoftBank wants to unleash Pepper on the US market before the year’s out.  If the price is right, Pepper could become the must-have toy by the time Christmas rolls around.  But if he’s too expensive, parents may decide to wait until next year.

It could very well be that Pepper bots will invade stores before they come into our homes.  Pepper isn’t just a domestic robot– he’s also a somewhat capable customer service agent.  In a matter of months, we might soon start running into Pepper-like robots in Pizza Hut restaurants, department stores and electronics shops.

Of course, not everyone in Japan is a Pepper fan.  Last year a drunken 60-year-old man was arrested for attacking Pepper at a SoftBank store.

 

About Alex Munkachy

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