Aldebaran Robotics was originally established in 2005 by Bruno Maisonnier in Paris. In the summer of 2010, the robot “Nao” (pronounced Now) made global headlines by performing a synchronized dance routine at the Shanghai Expo in China. Since then, with over 5000 Nao robots sold in over 70 countries, this 2 foot tall robot quickly became a standard teaching instrument in robotic labs and university research programs over the last decade.
In May 2011, Aldebaran announced that it would release Nao’s controlling source code to the public, as open source software. That same year they released the Nao Next Gen, featuring hardware and software enhancements such as high density cameras, improved robustness, anti-collision systems and a faster walking speed.
The Nao Evolution, featuring enhanced durability, improved multilingual speech synthesis, improved shape and facial detection and recognition using new algorithms, and improved sound source location using four directional microphones,
In 2013, Aldebaran was acquired by Japan’s SoftBank Mobile for US$100 million. While research continued on Nao, another version, nearly 4 feet tall, was being developed named Pepper, who was first released in 2014. Pepper uses a touchscreen on it’s chest to access it’s App’s, and as a reading or browsing interface.
Pepper was developed to read peoples emotions and to respond to them in ways that are soothing, or socially acceptable. Some would say it is an early version of a humanoid robot, that responds to our emotions and needs, using Artificial Intelligence (AI). In early trials, Pepper was well received as a store greeter, therapy robot and as an information kiosk for banks and retailers in Japan.
The first 2 manufacturing lots of 1000 units were sold in Japan and were sold out in seconds, as universities and developers sought to snap one up . Data Plans for Pepper, to access the trove of AI it needs to function, cost a couple of hundred dollars a month.
Current pricing models in Japan, which is still the only country it is available in, cost around $30,000 for the robot and $250 a month for the data access plan.
Programming for Nao and Pepper is primarily done on a program called Choregraphe, (shown below) but several developers have done work in R.O.S. as well. Since all of the files are open source, there are a lot of already developed resources available. Visit https://community.ald.softbankrobotics.com/ for software
Softbank Robotics has been carefully rolling out it’s worldwide distribution of Pepper as a robot targeted to consumer & business users by going on a world tour, as well as engaging beta testers and industry partners first.
This year at Google I/O 2016, which ran from May 18-20, Pepper made an appearance and Aldebaran announced their new Developer Portal, and Android SDK. Check out https://developer.softbankrobotics.com/us-en/news/developer-portal-launch-and-google-io-2016 to find out more
Later this month, June 20, 2016 a t the Future Stores Conference in Seattle Washington Pepper plans to teach retail executives how to drive in-store engagement with new clients.
Next, Pepper will be present at the AT&T Shape Technology Expo in San Francisco on July 15-16, 2016 to dazzle even more robot enthusiasts.
There is a Partner program developing in Europe already. Qualified applicants must purchase the robot, take a 5 day training program on robotics in Paris and agree to all terms for marketing and distribution. That qualifies you to become a reseller/ integrator / developer for Softbank Robotics.
Numerous industries are keenly watching the development of the worlds first humanoid robot, that at least acts like it cares about how you feel, and whether or not you are enjoying the conversation. Retail and fast food restaurants looking to offset rising costs of employees are at the front of the line. Soon Pepper may be the employee you place your fast food orders with, or get your flight information from…
Click here to read the article on Mashable.com about the SoftBank Cell phone stores in japan that used Pepper as the primary sales force for several days, and people as the muscle to complete the delivery of goods, to test using pepper on an enterprise level.
Visit https://www.ald.softbankrobotics.com/en for more info or