The dream of robots assisting humans in everyday life has always been a fantasy explored in utopian fiction and much sinister sci-fi tales of caution. Automated machines aren’t exactly close to realizing an R2D2 like companion, but we’ve never been closer. Aldebaran Robotics, a French robotics company, thinks they’ve created a friendly, helpful, fun and most importantly, learning robot.
Pepper is a humanoid robot that wants to help, have fun and answer your questions. But what distinguishes Pepper from a Google search or the always listening Amazon Echo, is it’s ability to pay attention to how you talk. So far, emotions such as joy, surprise, sadness and anger are noticed by Pepper, though to be fair it would be kinda creepy if our Google searches knew how we felt. SoftBank, a Japanese telecommunications and internet company, acquired Aldebaran in 2013. Since Pepper can learn new info, Pepper is entertaining and assisting customers in banks and shops. Children have especially shown interest who probably are now saying, “you go pay bills, I’ll go to robot.”
Pepper’s creators have recently open sourced their software to developers and researchers. Since anyone can contribute to Pepper’s progress, there’s no telling what people come up with. While emojis seem to be changing how we talk to each other, Pepper is learning to identify feelings, tone and body language. Who knows, maybe in 50 years, Pepper will be teaching us how to know if our kids really did finish their homework.
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