Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

Pepper the Robot Can Dance, Joke and Live in Your Home

Don't look now, but robots are everywhere. There are already 1.6 million of them, an army of disembodied limbs working in our factories to make everything from cars to pancakes. Now billionaire Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Group Corp., wants to bring robots into our homes. While Pepper is not the first robot to make it into the living room, it's certainly one of the most sophisticated — and costs about the same as a SLR digital camera.

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    Pepper often appears alongside Masayoshi Son at SoftBank's events — such as this news conference in Japan — cracking jokes, performing dance routines and reading out earnings results. Each month since June, Softbank has made 1,000 robots available, and each month they have sold out.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi

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    Here, several robots are pictured at a SoftBank developer's workshop in a "hackerspace" in Tokyo. For developers and owners willing to dive under the hood, SoftBank provides an extensive software suite giving access to Pepper's more than 20 motors, sensors and behavior patterns. 

    Photographer: Akio Kon

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    Prospective developers, like this hackerspace attendee, can get hands-on experience with Pepper's software and hardware.

    Photographer: Akio Kon

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    Employees interact with Pepper before the opening of the company's store in Tokyo. SoftBank expects Pepper to appear on sales floors, behind reception desks and in educational and health care settings. The robot can be hired part-time for 1,500 yen ($12.40) an hour.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    Customers talk with Pepper at a SoftBank store in Tokyo. A negative emotional response to things that look almost human but not quite is so common that a term has been coined for it: "uncanny valley". But there's little sign here that Pepper makes people uncomfortable.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    Pepper is equipped with an "emotion engine" — software that analyzes human speech, facial expressions and body language. Mizuho Bank is already introducing the robot at its branches to entertain customers with games and multimedia and provide basic information on products. 

    Photographer: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

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    Delivery workers lift a box containing the robot. Pepper costs 198,000 yen ($1,600) and comes with an optional 14,800 yen monthly service plan giving users access to cloud-based voice-recognition and an app store.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    Pepper's box is opened at the Tokyo office of software company Orange Arch Inc. SoftBank has struggled to keep up with demand for the robot. 

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi

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    An Orange Arch employee touches Pepper's head. 

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi

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    Pepper's body is jam-packed with sensors. The head and hands are responsive to touch, the legs have sonar and bumper sensors.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi

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    The robot also has a quad microphone array, two RGB cameras and high-speed Wi-Fi.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    A woman cycles past Pepper displayed outside a Karaoke bar in Yokohama, Japan. The 1.2 meter (4 foot) humanoid dances, makes jokes and estimates human emotions based on expressions.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    Karaoke bar owner Masahiko Yoshida interacts with Pepper. The robot's arms are extremely well articulated, allowing for a wide range of natural-looking gestures. But don't expect it to carry your groceries — those fingers are purely for decoration.

    Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

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    Pepper is more at ease with people it recognizes. A sudden noise from a stranger can make it cower in fear.

    Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg