An adorable humanoid robot called “Pepper” has been taking Japan by storm.
It was created by the robotics division of Japanese phone giant SoftBank who bills it as “the world’s first personal robot that has its own emotions.” Pepper doesn’t cook or clean.
The bot is a conversationalist.
And Pepper has been selling out for seven consecutive months since it was released, with over 7,000 units sold so far, SoftBank says.
While the robot has been sold to some consumers as a home companion, it is mostly being used in the corporate, retail and customer service worlds to greet people in stores, or as a replacement to an informational booth kiosk.
But the bot is about to be able to do much, much more, thanks to a partnership between Softbank Robotics and IBM.
Softbank Robotics Head Kent Yoshida and Pepper joined IBM CEO Ginni Rometty on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday during Rometty’s keynote speech. They announced a Watson-powered version of the Pepper robot.
Watson is IBM’s artificially intelligent computer, but its not its own robot. It’s a service that developers can build into their apps or devices to make them smarter, by doing things such as analysing data and making personal recommendations, or understanding human language.
A Watson-infused Pepper will be able to tap into all sorts of data such as social media, video, images and text. IBM says that Watson will help Pepper understand more types of questions in real time and that this will allow the bot to do more types of jobs.
IBM will be using its massive salesforce to help sell the Watson version of Pepper to IBM’s huge roster of global enterprise customers.
Robotics are being used to clean floors, do factory work, be our surrogates in meetings, but Pepper is pushing the boundaries of what an autonomous, artificially intelligent robot can do, working side-by-side with humans.
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