Unveiled by Japanese technology firm SoftBank in 2014 as the world’s first robot capable of reading human emotions, Pepper is fast becoming a familiar sight at mobile phone shops, malls and bank branches across Japan. Pepper stands 121centimetres tall, weighs 29 kilograms and has four in-built microphones, two cameras and a depth sensor that enable it to capture human voices and facial expressions. It displays its own “emotions” through colours and gestures.
With its ability to analyse voice tones and interact, Pepper symbolizes a new direction for the robotics industry. Its developers claim that “empathetic” robots may revolutionize medical applications, information services and entertainment. Shunji Mitsuyoshi, the man who designed the “emotional engine” driving Pepper’s “heart”, explains what makes Pepper unique, what led to his collaboration with SoftBank and how robotics may continue to change the way we live.