Making Pepper humanoid robot compatible with Android will speed up the development of its functionalities

Pepper the humanoid robot to learn from Android developers

Android developers will be able get their hands on Pepper robot for the first time as the humanoid’s creators look for help to expand its abilities.

Japanese telecoms corporation SoftBank – makers of the waist-high interactive robot – and French Aldebaran Robotics have released the software development kit for Android Studio for free and announced that Pepper will be available to developers as early as July 2016.

The firm hopes designers will take this opportunity to create new RoboApps for Android to make Pepper a more versatile companion and worker.

The robot is predominantly driven by Aldebaran’s Choreographe platform and the software development kits for this platform are still available. However, the teams behind Pepper believe that with the vast amount of Android developers around the world, making the robot compatible with the Google operating system would speed up the progress. SoftBank said RoboApps developed on Choreographe will be compatible with Android-driven versions of Pepper.

The autonomous talking robot, which can recognise and react to human emotions, is already used by companies in Japan as a waiter, customer service representative and salesman. Companies including Nissan, Nestle and Mizuho Bank have been experimenting with the robot to drive customer engagement.

Pepper, which costs $1,800 (£1,230) has been in high demand in Japan. The first six batches of the robot, each averaging 1,000 units, sold out in less than a minute.

The robot is equipped with an advanced emotion engine that analyses what people say, the tone of their voice and nonverbal communication cues like the tilt of the head or posture. From these inputs, Pepper can instantly recognise the emotional context of the conversation and adjust accordingly.

Its head is fitted with four directional microphones detecting sound and its whereabouts, which enables Pepper to understand where people are standing and turn its head to face them when they speak.

Pepper uses one 3D camera and two HD cameras in its face to detect images of its surroundings, which are processed by shape recognition software to enable identification of objects and people around the robot.

Moving on three multi-directional wheels, Pepper can travel at speeds of up to 3 km/h. The motion of its limbs is controlled and driven by 20 engines. A high capacity lithium-ion battery allows Pepper to run for 12 hours before needing a recharge.

Earlier this week, the Hilton Hotels launched Pepper's brother – the NAO robot – also developed by Aldebaran, as a concierge in its hotels in the USA. Renamed Connie, after the Hilton founder Conrad Hilton, NAO has received an artificial intelligence upgrade from IBM using its natural language processing and machine learning system Watson, which enables it to answer customer questions about hotel facilities and nearby attractions. In the future, the hotel chain hopes Connie would be able to check guests in and out as well.

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