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Emotion-reading robot Pepper
Emotion-reading robot Pepper
Paul Molga

MARSEILLE — Have you met Pepper? This four-feet-tall emotion-reading robot is expected to hit stores soon in Tokyo, where technology lovers will be able to acquire one for the equivalent of $1,650. The child-faced robot, the latest invention of French start-up Aldebaran, was created to "live alongside humans." But household chores such as vacuuming or cooking are not among Pepper's abilities. Instead, this aristocrat of the robot tribe is more like Star Wars" C-3PO.

Like its golden movie counterpart, it's a protocol droid, "endearing and kind," says Aldebaran's founder and CEO Bruno Maisonnier. It doesn't move the same way C-3PO does, but its many sensors feed its algorithms with information about the people it talks to, making conversations with the robot rather entertaining.

"Pepper understands our primary emotions: joy, sadness, anger, surprise, neutrality," Maisonnier explains. "It can determine the sex and the age of a person, and therefore identify all members of a family. It can keep up with 70% of a conversation. By analyzing our facial expressions, our vocabulary and our body language, it guesses your mood and adapts to your behavior. If you frown, it'll understand that something's bothering you and can try to cheer you up by, for example, playing a song you really like."

After having spent several months with the people at SoftBank, a Japanese telecom company and Aldebaran's primary shareholder, Pepper is said to spark as much curiosity as good humor. "Our goal is to make kind, pet-like humanoid robots that will live with humans as an artificial species," Maisonnier says.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

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