Japanese robots have now figured out how to comfort sad humans

It’s finally come to this: humans are relying on robots for emotional support. 

Pepper, Japan’s latest robot to join the humanoid ranks, was built by the the telecom giant SoftBank. A $US1,650 consumer version, announced in June, comes with cameras, sensors, and accelerometers that can track human emotion (to a point) and even allow Pepper to produce its own “emotions”, the creators say.

And, if the marketing materials are to be believed, it can even make you feel better when you’re sad. 

A month after the public release to consumers, SoftBank has now set an October launch date for its “Pepper for Biz” model, which will offer a variety of services to the businesses who rent it out:  greeting visitors, reciting programmable phrases, assisting customers, conducting product demos, and interacting with people on a personal level. SoftBank can then use the emotional information as part of future marketing efforts.

In 2014, when SoftBank debuted Pepper at its Japanese headquarters, the company said it envisioned Pepper entering all different fields, from high-stakes jobs like nursing and babysitting to more menial roles as party guest.

Beginning October 1, businesses will be able to rent Pepper for $US16,000. After the three-year contract expires, they give the robot back to the manufacturer.

If all goes according to plan, however, people might never want to give Pepper back.

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