Robots and other smart technology have found their way into more and more facets of our everyday life. In spite of some dire warnings and opposition from the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), companies continue to work in this area. The next group to help speed us towards humanity’s eventual decline comes as a coalition comprised of SoftBank, Alibaba, and Foxconn.
In a recent announcement, Masayoshi Son (founder of SoftBank) and Jack Ma (founder of Alibaba) announced their intentions to be at the forefront of the future of personal assistant robots. From the Financial Times:
“Robots are going to be as popular as cars,” Mr Ma said on Thursday in a joint appearance with Mr Son on the outskirts of Tokyo. “They will be everywhere and I think we all have to get ready for that.”
If we didn’t know their true feelings, this quote could actually be taken as a sign that we should really be preparing ourselves for the robots’ eventual enslavement of all mankind. I say that jokingly, but Mr. Son and Mr. Ma do have some ambitious ideas for the robot the call “Pepper.”
Unveiled last year, Pepper will be available in Japan starting tomorrow (June 20th). The purchase price is around $1600, though there is also a monthly $200 fee to cover things like insurance – you know, in case it becomes self-aware and goes on a murderous rampage. I really should probably tone down the robot snark.
Pepper is meant to assist and entertain. With a tablet-like computer on its chest and a series of sensors, cameras, and microphones, Pepper can recognize and react to different emotions. Pepper has been known to act sad or scared when all of the lights are turned off, and happy when praised or interacted with. Pepper can read and remember these different emotions, and that information is backed up to the cloud so that it can better learn how to react to different situations.
Pepper can dance, play games, and even play air-guitar. SoftBank has already used Pepper as a greeter at their mobile phone stores in Japan, but they hope that the upcoming retail release will lead to more applications for the robot.
What do you think? Is Pepper a cute, non-threatening personal robot assistant for your family? Let us know what you think in the comments, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.