Japanese robot to get Artificial Intelligence
Robots continue to get smarter. They can be programmed to think. Well, not exactly think like humans, but respond that way.
Japanese mobile carrier Softbank says it will incorporate artificial intelligence technology from IBM into its robot, Pepper. The robot will be available to Japanese consumers around midyear.
The artificial intelligence engine "Watson" is made by IBM. It is already used in health care, travel and insurance services in English. But an adaptation was needed to make it work and think in Japanese. That is according to Steve Gold. He is vice president of IBM Watson Group.
Watson can learn over time similar to a human brain. Watson understands the concept of probability. That makes it sophisticated and more human-like for applications, according to IBM.
Software developers who have made reservations for Pepper robots will get them sometime this month. They will cost $1,700. That is according to Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son.
Consumers won't be able to get Pepper until between June and August, he said. Details of the sales plan were undecided, Son added. No decision has been made on overseas sales.
Pepper has a stunned face a bit like C3PO in "Star Wars." It moves around on wheels. In early demonstrations it was a bit mechanical in its responses. Gold said Watson will change that.Watson will make Pepper a smarter, more charming companion.
For example, two plus two is four in arithmetic. But in another context it could refer to a car design, Gold said. Watson is designed to figure out context and know which answer is more likely.
A call center using Watson will get the caller to the right solution more quickly. That will make for a less frustrating consumer experience, he said.
But the complexity of the Japanese language challenges even Watson, Gold said. Japanese includes thousands of characters. Some have various meanings and several phonetic options.
Besides Pepper, Softbank will use Watson inside the company. Softbank will resell it in Japan to businesses such as call centers. The company will work with other companies to develop new applications, according to IBM.
Critical thinking challenge: What would you like to be able to do with a robot like Pepper?