Robot love is in your future

Japanese electronics firm Softbank claims to have developed the world’s first emotional robot.

Utilising cloud-based artificial intelligence and an “emotional engine,” the company says consumers will be able to interact with the robot, which they call Pepper, “just like they would with friends and family.”

The robot, which will also be capable of performing various tasks, is set to go on sale next year for 198,000 yen (£1,150).

Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank said, “People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we’re giving a robot a heart.”

Two prototypes will be present from this Friday across Softbank stores in Japan, allowing customers to interact with the robot.

The robotics industry has found a strong foothold in Japan over recent years. Estimates suggest that its robotics market was worth about 860 billion yen (£5 billion) in 2012 and with growing concerns over an ageing population and falling birth rates the popularity of robots is expected to increase.

Households are looking to robots like Pepper as an alternative to paying for care for elderly relatives and to compensate for labour shortages. Pepper is also not the first robot to make a name for itself in Japan. Car giant Honda has been developing a humanoid robot called ASIMO since 2000, which was recently seen playing football with US President Barack Obama.

Pepper was developed by Softbank in collaboration with French company Aldebaran Robotics. Chief executive of Alderbaran, Bruno Maisonnier said, “The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology.

“It’s just the beginning, but already a promising reality.”