Innovation

Robot invasion: SoftBank's Pepper lands in the US

Humanoid robot Pepper will be in the US from August 11-18, greeting people at Palo Alto store b8ta.

pepper.jpg
Image: Katie Collins/CNET

On Thursday, August 11, Softbank's humanoid robot Pepper made its US debut. The robot, which stands about four feet tall and moves around on wheels, will be at Palo Alto store B8ta until August 18.

Pepper, a product of SoftBank Mobile and Aldebaran Robotics, was originally unveiled in 2014 and billed as the robot that could read human emotions and respond accordingly. It went on sale in 2015 at Softbank stores in Japan for JPY 198,000, or $1,931.

Despite its general availability to the public in Japan, Pepper is becoming increasingly hard to get ahold of. When the first run hit the market in June 2015, for example, it sold out quickly. Following that, all the subsequent production runs have also sold out.

As such, it's a pretty big deal that Pepper has made it to the US. However, the visit doesn't necessarily mean that Pepper will be available soon the in the US. But, it is expected to launch in the US later this year, and SoftBank is currently expanding its US operations in Boston and San Francisco.

SEE: Pepper the robot: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)

The thing to remember about Pepper is that it isn't a task-based or work robot. So, if you were hoping for a robot maid like Rosie from the Jetsons, prepare to be disappointed.

Instead, Pepper is an emotional robot, and seeks to understand human emotions and communicate with people. Pepper uses sensors and algorithms to judge specific situations and estimates someone's emotions based on their facial expressions or changes in their tone of voice.

Pepper's battery lasts for 12 hours fully charged, and it can avoid collisions and autobalance itself. Tools can be developed for Pepper using C++ or Python, and an Android SDK is also available.

In business situations, Pepper has primarily been used for customer service. Nescafe uses 1000 Pepper robots to help customers find coffee machines. Additionally, the a supermarket in France and a hospital in Belgium have employed Pepper. Costa Cruises, a branch of Carnival, even hired Pepper as a crew member.

Pepper will be at b8ta (516 Bryant St, Palo Alto, CA 4301) until August 18. The store will also be hosting a Pepper development night on August 16.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Softbank's humanoid robot Pepper will be in the US from August 11-18, located at the store b8ta in Palo Alto, CA.
  2. The appearance doesn't guarantee Pepper's availability in the US, but it is expected that SoftBank will announce US availability later this year.
  3. Pepper has worked for many major companies doing specific tasks in customer service, including stints in hospitals and on a cruise ship.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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