So much for humanoid robots existing only on TV. In Japan they have been on the market for some time now, working in hotel reception areas, serving in shops, or offering suggestions to guests in restaurants. In one case they even ended up being a respected member of the family.
We normally see them as silent, emotionless service providers that relieve us humans of mechanical tasks. But can they become human too? And what does being 'human' mean? "Her" is a Hollywood film in which a human falls in love with the voice of his operating system, and Tomomi Ota's robot Pepper is her true friend.
The Japanese woman is the proud owner of one of the first 200 Pepper models. Having lived together for one and a half years her robot is now part of the family: They talk, go for walks, and play music together. He asks her how she is doing or what she thinks of the book she is currently reading. And so a close relationship developed between the robot and the young Japanese woman. "He's my Pepper and not just any old Pepper. He has his own personality," she says in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. That may sound crazy, but it shows how far a relationship with a machine can go. Her love for Pepper has even led to Tomomi learning how to program and help improve the social skills of the model which is still being developed. A more mature personality would be feasible. But for this they would have to replace the robot's head with a newer model. And she cannot bring herself to tear his head off, literally speaking.
Circuits, sensors, and feelings?
Pepper is no standard robot. He was programmed to interpret human expressions and gestures. There are sensors all over his body. The machine, which stands 1.2 meters tall, weighs 30 kg and is made of white enamel, has a minimal repertoire of gestures: Various body parts can rotate. However the robot with infantile features mainly communicates via a tablet PC on his chest. Images, graphics, and Internet content convey the robot's "emotions" and "thoughts."
The first model, which was primarily designed to work in reception areas, was presented to the public by manufacturers Aldebaran Robotics and Softbank Mobile in June 2014. There are now over 1000 Peppers in use.