Japanese robot to get Artificial Intelligence A humanoid robot Pepper is on display at SoftBank mobile shop in Tokyo (- AP photos)
Japanese robot to get Artificial Intelligence
Lexile

Japanese mobile carrier Softbank says it will incorporate artificial intelligence technology from IBM into its empathetic robot Pepper that will be available to Japanese consumers around midyear.

The artificial intelligence engine "Watson" 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, said Steve Gold, Vice President, IBM Watson Group.

Unlike other cognitive technology that responds rather mechanically, Watson can learn over time like a human brain, and understands the concept of probability, which makes it sophisticated and more human-like for applications, according to IBM.

"It depends on the context of the conversation as to what the right answer would be," as opposed to how a computer would generally try to answer correctly, Gold told The Associated Press. "The world is seldom absolute."

Software developers who have made reservations for Pepper robots will get them sometime this month for $1,700, 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 said. No decision has been made on overseas sales.

Softbank had said earlier that sales to Japanese consumers would begin this month as well. He did not elaborate on the reason for the delay, but he said giving it first to the developers will mean more fun applications will be available when consumers get the robot, implying it wasn't quite ready as a product.

Pepper has a stunned face a bit like C3PO in "Star Wars" and moves around on wheels. In early demonstrations it was a bit mechanical in its responses. Gold said Watson will change that and make the robot 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 and make for a less frustrating consumer experience, he said.

But the complexity of the Japanese language, including thousands of characters with various meanings and several phonetic options, challenges even Watson, Gold said.

Besides Pepper, Softbank will use Watson inside the company, resell it in Japan to businesses such as call centers and 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?

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COMMENTS (41)
  • 3WillS
    3/12/2015 - 01:05 p.m.

    I think it would be very strange. It is unnatural. It is almost like a person. I'm not opposed to the idea, but I just think it would be weird. So I'm not too sure what to think.

    • 1EianS
      3/13/2015 - 12:00 p.m.

      This is an article about a robot with human intelligence which does seem a little strange but could be very helpful. A lot of people get frustrated with recorded voice calling and as it says in this article it could help with that. It could also be great for baby siting... maybe.

  • nicholas.jones07
    3/12/2015 - 01:14 p.m.

    I think that robot helpers like Pepper are overdone. It is pr oven that 45% of American jobs are getting taken over by robots That is ridiculous! It is dumb and against the American way. I think people invent these just so they'll have a personal metal slave. And while we're on the topic, what about robot ethics? Is this thing programed so that it will not be able to hurt people? I think that they might have forgo ten robot ethics.

  • austinrg-DiB
    3/12/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    If i could afford one, I would have conversations with it, ask the most complicated questions concevied by humans, show the robot reality so it can learn as we have for many years and have the people I trust teach it what is right and wrong.

  • CassandraHBlue
    3/12/2015 - 02:41 p.m.

    I think robes and drones are cool but we can't let them do everything or we will become lazy and the robots will start a war and who will lose us.Sowhen people can buy robots i will only need one and it will pronely do like one thing witch is opening the door.

  • tylerha-And
    3/12/2015 - 04:04 p.m.

    What I would do with pepper is have her do my homework and chores and help with stuff around the house like sick people and the homeless.

  • angelr-DiB
    3/12/2015 - 04:04 p.m.

    BEST Article I have read. This article was VERY fascinating. I like the whole idea of the robots, and how consumers can actually buy it as well. This tells me that robots are starting to be created and are now nearing a more advanced future.

  • CarterWBlue
    3/12/2015 - 05:30 p.m.

    Wow I cant believe that something like this finally happening Its a bit scary and cool at the same time. Its cool because Its robots, and its scary what people can do.

  • 9alexmr
    3/12/2015 - 06:20 p.m.

    my opinion is that this robot is going to help people. the robot is going to help people. they all ready selling them. this robot is very helpful

  • 9CarsonK
    3/12/2015 - 08:36 p.m.

    I don't know what I would do with a robot. What would you really do with a robot that is basically a human? I guess we would play pool or something. I could show off the robot and make everyone jealous because I have a robot and they don't.

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