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Friday, 6th June 2014
In General Japan News,

Softbank unveils emotional robot

Japanese company Softbank claims it has made leaps and bounds in the field of robotics with the production of its new android Pepper, which employs an emotional engine which is capable of understanding how people are feeling.

The development was announced at a press conference today (June 5th), with Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank, claiming that users will be able to talk to the robot as though they were conversing with friends and family.

"People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart," he told clamouring journalists. "For the first time in human history, we're giving a robot a heart, emotions."

A cloud-based artificial intelligence allows Pepper to understand gestures, expressions and voice tones.

Analysts believe the development could be particularly revolutionary in countries that have an aging population, such as Japan, where people are increasingly looking to robots to perform certain tasks.

"Even if one can pre-programme such robots to carry out specific tasks based on certain commands or gestures, it could go [a] long way in helping improve elderly care," commented Rhenu Bhuller, senior vice president of healthcare at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Softbank is looking to deploy Pepper prototypes in a number of its stores nationwide for interested buyers to trial, with a view to rolling it out for consumers to purchase from next year at a cost of 198,000 yen (£1,150).

Japan is renowned for having one of the world's biggest robot markets, said to be worth around 860 billion yen (£5 billion).

Honda's efforts to develop a talking, walking robot have led to Asimo, which is capable of ascending and descending steps, running, dancing and understanding around 50 words and phrases.

US president Barack Obama recently played football with it during a high-profile visit to Japan. The android fielded a powerful kick that was successfully blocked by the president.