The humanoid robot Pepper will start shipping this Friday, the CEO of product-owner Softbank announced this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The news confirms what CEO Masayoshi Son told reporters earlier this month, namely that Pepper won’t be hitting shelves until this Summer. The company said it will ship 300 units to developers, having received much more than the originally planned 200 pre-orders it expected, in order to allow developers to build more apps into the product.
“[Softbank] envisions Pepper as a companion for the elderly, a teacher of schoolchildren and an assistant in retail shops, among other uses. It is one of a number of robotics projects that are aimed at dealing with labor shortages as Japan’s population ages.” – Wall Street Journal
The product will be sold at with a $1,660 upfront price – much less than the production cost of the device – however, it will also carry a mandatory $206/month service charge for the cloud-based artificial intelligence, repairs & more, with a commitment of three years. This totals the cost of Pepper at more than $9,000 over three years – not exactly the everyman’s price range. The company will also provide optional insurance for preferred repair rates.
This month, Softbank also announced a partnership with IBM’s Watson, which will bring Japanese language processing to IBM’s famed Jeopardy-winning supercomputer, while bringing a supercomputer to Pepper.
I wrote last December about the fate of Aldebaran, the French company that Softbank bought three years ago for a robot technology that would become Pepper. The brand ‘Aldebaran’ has already faded into the background, and, with the first units shipping to developers (likely under NDA), we may just see how ready Softbank is to show Pepper to the world.
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Photo courtesy of Japan Times