Gadgets

Japan’s first emotional robot sells out in one minute

Sixty seconds.

That's how long it took for SoftBank's emotional robot Pepper to shift its first 1,000 units in Japan. Hasn't anyone shown them The Matrix? Or I, Robot? Or Blade Runner? Or... well, any science fiction depiction of robots ever?

But then, with its lamp-like eyes and static smile, Pepper hardly presents an overt threat to humanity. It can't go up stairs for one thing. A household companion droid, Pepper's main function is to make people happy.

"He's an emotional robot, not a functional robot for domestic use with dish washer or vacuum cleaner functionalities," explains the manufacturer's website. "Pepper will help people grow, enhance their life, facilitate relationship, he will have fun with them, give some services and connect them with the outside world."

Capable of communicating in English, Japanese, Spanish and French, Pepper can interact with its owners via vocal commands and a touchscreen interface.

The touchscreen presents Pepper's emotional state, as well as providing a variety of interactions to tap your way through. Pepper can develop a personality through interaction with humans, presenting a "happy" demeanour when people talk to it, or becoming irritable if it is ignored. Think of it as a giant, plastic cat. Or dog. Or a seriously advanced Tamagotchi.

Revealed last year, Pepper finally went on sale on 20 June for £1,020. The Aldebaran sold out of its 1,000 models in a minute, with the next 1,000 models set to go on sale in Japan in July. A worldwide launch is planned later this year. 

Quite what happens if Pepper is left alone - or worse, is abuse by its owners - isn't really made clear. What does an "irritable" robot do? We're not willing to spend £1,020 to find out.