Emotional robot Pepper goes on sale, first run sells out

Rush of orders for robot that can respond to emotions and generate its own from sensor feedback.

The first run of SoftBank's Pepper robot sold out immediately. Photo credit: Emma Innocenti
The first run of Softbank's 'emotional' robot Pepper has sold out, the company has said.

One thousand of the four-foot-tall humanoid robots went on sale at the weekend and all sold within a minute, it said. The company now plans to build 1,000 a month, according to reports. SoftBank also said that in the autumn it plans to launch 'Pepper for Biz '- a version of the robot built for enterprise use.

While there are various humanoid robots - from toys to firefighters - Pepper is interesting because it has been designed to respond to and display emotions."This robot has been created to make people happy to interact with," said the developers.

Don't expect it to do the cleaning, either. "He's an emotional robot, not a functional robot for domestic use with dishwasher or vacuum cleaner functionalities. Pepper will help people grow, enhance their life, facilitate relationship, he will have fun with them, give some services, and connect them with the outside world."

The robot's emotions are influenced by people's facial expressions and words, as well as his surroundings. For example, according to the developers, "Pepper is at ease when he is around people he knows, happy when he is praised, and gets scared when the lights go down."

Softbank said the robots will also be able to "artificially generate their own emotions", using a system modelled on how humans release hormones in response to stimuli, which in turn generates emotions. That means that in addition to Pepper's emotion recognition functions, it can process information from his cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer, and other sensors within his "multi-layer neural network".

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