If you are anything like me, your primary criterion for a useful robot is one that dances. To 1960s pop songs, preferably.
If that is your inclination too, then look no further than Pepper, the lifelike robot out of Japan which will be making its debut in the U.S. this year.
Described as an "emotional" robot by Julien Seret, vice president of enterprise business for Aldebaran, a subsidiary of SoftBank Group of Japan and the company that created Pepper, it uses facial, gesture and voice recognition to detect emotion. Pepper can then respond accordingly -- in fact, our reporter, Matt Hamblen, noted that Pepper "raised its arms to imitate the gestures of people, slightly nodding at times. When asked a direct question, rings around its eyes lit up, a sign it was actively listening."
There are already over 10,000 Peppers worldwide, greeting and helping SoftBank customers in Japan, helping people find the correct train platform in France and greeting shoppers at supermarkets in both France and Spain. Seven thousand Peppers are also currently living with Japanese families.
In the U.S., you won’t be able to get a Pepper at home -- yet. These robots, which can speak and interpret 20 languages, are available to businesses first, consumers later. But once consumers can purchase Pepper for their home, the robot will cost less than half of the $20,000 that business customers will be shelling out. (Naturally, consumer-geared Peppers will come without some business functionality.)
And once you get Pepper home, it is customizable. In addition to dancing, Pepper can already high-five, fist bump and hug, but both its gestures and how it talks can be modified to suit your needs. For instance, you may prefer that Pepper dance to 1990s pop instead of 1960s. No problem!
Just don't throw a frilly apron on Pepper and expect it to clean. Pepper is no Rosie.