World’s first commercially available humanoid robot goes on sale

Pepper went on sale in Japan this weekend at the affordable price of just $1500.SoftBank will release 1000 robots for sale each month but only in Japan for the time being. The humanoid robot can also be hired by businesses for $12 an hour. So what’s the catch?

SoftBank’s CE Masayoshi Son said at the launch “For the first time in human history we’re giving a robot a heart, emotions” but robotics expert professor Noel Sharkey believes the robots capabilities have been overhyped. Sharkey claims conversations with Pepper are rather one sided and Pepper could be annoying as it asks endless questions rather like a toddler. Sharkey also believes it is not much of a companion as it is unable to lift anything.

Softbank are actually selling their Pepper robot cheaper than it cost to produce, but Customers will need to sign a 3 year contract and pay monthly service fees of around $195. The Robot currently comes with 100 apps and SoftBank expect to make money from new apps developed for Pepper; however it is not clear if anybody is actually interested in developing apps for the robot.

Pepper is manufactured by partner Foxconn who along with Chinese e-commerce partner Alibaba have both invested $118 million in Softbank’s robotics division and own 20% shares. Japan has one of the world’s largest robot markets which was estimated to be worth $8.4 billion in 2012. Japan is looking to technology to solve the problem of its large elderly population and low birth rate and believes that robots could make ideal companions for lonely old people.

If you fancy splashing out $1500 Pepper will no doubt be lots of fun and keep the kids amused but don’t forget the monthly fees or expect too much.