“Your affection does not compute.”
A company in Japan has unveiled what is believed to be the first humanoid robot that can read people’s emotions. “Pepper,” as the robot is affectionately called, was recently touring a nursing home in western Tokyo, acting as a tireless conversation partner for patients suffering from dementia. But install a few programs in the droid, and it can dance and even play simple games. Nestle even used it to help promote a new line of coffee machines. You can check it out in action below:
To figure out how you’re feeling, Pepper analyzes your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. The humanoid can understand 70 to 80 per cent of all spontaneous conversations, and interacts via a set number of pre-programmed responses (Pepper will even tell you off if you insult its dance moves). But before you get too alarmed, this robot’s real purpose will probably take place in the medical field.
The company behind the invention, SoftBank Mobile, is trying to engineer the perfect companion for patients with dementia. They’re actually working on adding a function that will encourage the elderly to talk to Pepper specifically about their memories.
“We see a demand for products that will prompt communication and support everyday life by asking the elderly if they have taken their medication and other questions,” Kaname Hayashi, who is involved in the development of Pepper at SoftBank, told the Toronto Star.
The potential to improve treatment here is huge, especially considering Canada is facing a shortage of workers in the nursing field.
On the other hand…
It totally freaks us out. Pepper is set to retail for 198,000 yen (about $2,020) on the consumer market in February.