This weekend I met “Pepper.” He… although, I think it looks like a “she,” was working for Microsoft. I was curious and wanted to see what the robot could do. The Microsoft Sales Rep said that Pepper was new to the company. So, I decided to give it a whirl. Basically, Pepper welcomed me and brought me to a Main screen where I could click on different links that would describe products, a Q&A section, services and so on. It was interesting.
While I could not engage Pepper in a normal human conversation, he did sense my movements. If I moved to the left, his face would follow me. When I moved closer or further away from him, his hands would open and close, face would move and the color of the lights in his eye would change colors too. Blue was when you could ask a question.
While the interaction with Pepper was fun for about 5 minutes, it certainly did not replace interaction with a real human being. Pepper was not meant to sell the product, mainly there as an interactive information screen. I was amused when I saw the robot. If I was in the market for a computer, maybe I would have stayed longer. So, Pepper did attract my attention, and I entered the store, kudos for that.
A few years ago I worked for an electronic manufacturing company and one of our projects was a telepresence robot, which was called, “Anybot.” While there were a lot of issues with getting the Anybot robot to function properly, it was fun, because it was so darn cute. Back then I was doing research on robots and many of them are created in Japan.
Using a telepresence/humanoid robot is not cheap. Visiting Pepper’s website (SoftBankRobotics.com), I saw that he sells for $25K, our Anybot robot was selling for $15K. Pepper was built by a Japanese company that merged with a French company and they are now called, “SoftBank Robotics” working out of San Francisco.
So, what do you think… would you like to have Pepper help you with chores around the house or serve you coffee, tea? Those days might come sooner than we think!