In 2007, American inventor Richard Kopelle showed his "My Therapy Buddy" on the Shark Tank show. You hold this talking therapy doll while it tells you “everything is going to be alright”. It was seen as just a clever marketing ploy for existing stuffed toys and went nowhere. Richard saw a basic need not being met in society. Humans need companionship. That is why solitary confinement is such a terrible hardship. It is also why pets are a multi-billion dollar industry.
Fast forward to 2014. SoftBank Robotics Corp. releases Pepper, a social humanoid robot designed as a companion for the home.
Created for SoftBank Mobile, one of the largest mobile phone operators in Japan, Pepper is already greeting and interacting with customers in stores and will soon be offered as a companion for the home. At just under four feet tall, and weighing 61 pounds, Pepper is a cute, wisecracking humanoid robot that offers advice and can access the internet. Pepper also can express emotions, and this is what makes him so cute! We can say he has a real personality conveyed by his body language, his funny gestures and his voice. Pepper also has tactile sensors so he can feel your touch and react accordingly.
Pepper is designed to read emotions as well as recognize tones of voice and facial expressions in order to interact with humans with empathy. Pepper will learn and grow over time through his own emotional engine and collective wisdom gained through collected cloud data. Pepper is the first humanoid robot designed to live with humans. At the risk of disappointing you, he doesn't clean, doesn't cook and doesn't have super powers... Pepper is a social robot able to converse with you in multiple languages, recognize and react to your emotions while moving and living autonomously.
You know this is only the beginning. Parent company Aldebaran is working with developers and have two other models exploring other possibilities. They challenge all creative minds to help them make their robot line evolve!
Created in 2006, at just under 2' tall, NAO is intended to be a friendly companion around the house. He moves, recognizes you, can converse with you, and wants to be your friend. While waiting to be ready for home use, NAO became a star in the world of education. In more than 70 countries, he was used in computer and science classes, from primary school to universities. Thanks to NAO, students can learn programming in a fun and practical way. They can program him to walk, catch small objects and even dance!
Started in January 2009, Romeo is a 4-1/2' research robot created from an international collaboration of laboratories and companies. This humanoid robot is intended to deepen research on assistance for the elderly and those who have lost autonomy. His height allows it to open doors, climb stairs, and even grab objects on a table.
The goal of Aldebaran is to create an engaging, interactive companion and partner. The humanoid form transports you into a world of emotions and caring, his sign language gives him life and makes him endearing, and his capacity to interact makes him a new member of the family.
There are more then a few science fiction books and movies showing us paths that we should not follow using this technology. There is also no doubt how wonderful the promise these humanoid helpers hold for us. Think about future pets that give so much and really ask nothing in return as they take us for a walk. Pepper is even able to check his internal temperature and manage his battery power. We can combine many complimentary technologies to give us even more functionality. Be careful of what you ask for. We might get more then we bargained for. But done correctly this is going to be great. I can't wait.