Softbank CEO and 'caring' robot Pepper, jointly developed with Aldebaran.

Softbank CEO and ‘caring’ robot Pepper, jointly developed with Aldebaran.

Yesterday SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son introduced Pepper, a robot designed to understand human feelings.

“We say that a person is behaving like a robot, meaning that the person has no feelings. So far, robots have been like that. This is the first time in the robot industry that we are putting emotion into this robot, or giving giving him heart.”

Pepper was created in partnership with Aldebaran, a world leader in humanoid robotics. Angelica Lim, an artificial intelligence roboticist specializing in robots with feelings, was involved in the development.

“I’ve always thought that the future of robotics is like other media. Say, television or a game console. We aren’t watching it for practical purposes (other than news, I suppose). We need it to help us chill out after a long day at work. The most important element becomes the story, the connection with the viewer.”

Dr. Lim explained Choregraphe, Aldebaran’s high level programming suite, gives creative people like writers, comedians and musicians a way to bring Pepper to life.

SoftBank is launching Pepper today at two of its retail store in Japan, where he will interact with customers and analyze their facial expressions looking for smiles. Pepper is expected to be available commercially in February 2015, retailing for 198,000 Yen (less than $2,000 U.S.).