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Wednesday, 28th January 2015
In General Japan News,

Japan launches new talking robot

Japanese android expert Hiroshi Ishiguro has premiered a host of new talking robots, with the new creations designed to mimic conversation with its fellow electronic friends.

During a conference last week, Mr Ishiguro showed off Sota - which stands for 'social talker' - a button-eyed robot that measures in at 28-centimetres tall and is programmed to simulate conversations.

Controversially, however, people will need to purchase at least two of the robots in order to enjoy their full range of benefits as Ishiguro says that artificial intelligence is still a while off coherent conversation with a human.

Sota, set to go on sale priced at 100,000 yen (£563) each, represents a major breakthrough in the industry of companion robots, which are becoming extremely popular in Japan thanks to the country's aging population.

Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University, said that people need to lower their expectations of artificial intelligence for the time being, but said pleasure can still be gained from chiming in with robotic conversations.

"Voice recognition has always been very difficult for robots," he explained. "Human beings should instead adjust to what robots can do."

Alongside Sota, Ishiguro also demonstrated a more elaborate counterpart called CommU which stands for Communication Utility. It will cost five times as much as Sota and is expected to appeal to business consumers rather than individuals.

While both products are being advertised as companion robots, it is expected they will initially gain popularity as advertising mascots for businesses. Robot maker Vstone, which provided financial backing to the venture, expects to sell around 3,000 in the first year.

Internet and telecommunications company Softbank Corp, meanwhile, plans to start selling Pepper, a humanoid it claims is designed to read human emotions, in Japan next month for 198,000 yen, possibly heralding the era of everyday robots.