By Roger Smith
Humaoid Robots Are Big in Japan
I spent part of this afternoon at the MakerZone, which is part of the Java Hub at this year's JavaOne Exhibit Hall, where I had a brief, enjoyable chat with Pepper, a 4-foot tall humanoid robot. Created by Aldebaran Robotics, Pepper is a social robot able to recognize and react to human emotions and carry on simple conversations in as many as 28 different languages. (I met and wrote about Nao, Pepper’s androgynous older sibling, in a recent JavaOne4kids workshop that showed how Nao could be taught to walk, talk, catch small objects and even dance). Besides being almost twice as tall as Nao, Pepper moves around on three omnidirectional wheels rather than feet like Nao. The Nao robot has been in development since 2006, while Pepper only has been around for a little over a year. Pepper’s added wheels give him greater range and almost 14 hours of battery life, which is three times the amount Nao has. The additional battery life was a requirement, said Nicholas Rigaud, Developer Community Leader for Aldebaran, since he was designed to greet and interact with customers in retail stores owned by Japanese mobile phone operator SoftBank Mobile, Aldebaran’s parent company.