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A robot that could fall in love with you? Japanese firm creates machine "with a heart"

Japanese electronics firm Softbank claims to have developed the world's first emotional robot.

Utilising cloud-based artificial intelligence and an "emotional engine," the company says consumers will be able to interact with the robot, which they call Pepper, "just like they would with friends and family."

Read more: Fancy your own walking, singing, beer-serving robot? (opens in new tab)

(opens in new tab)The robot, which will also be capable of performing various tasks, is set to go on sale next year for 198,000 yen (£1,150).

Masayoshi Son, chief executive of Softbank said, "People describe others as being robots because they have no emotions, no heart. For the first time in human history, we're giving a robot a heart."

Two prototypes will be present from this Friday across Softbank stores in Japan, allowing customers to interact with the robot.

The robotics industry has found a strong foothold in Japan over recent years. Estimates suggest that its robotics market was worth about 860 billion yen (£5 billion) in 2012 and with growing concerns over an ageing population and falling birth rates the popularity of robots is expected to increase.

Households are looking to robots like Pepper as an alternative to paying for care for elderly relatives and to compensate for labour shortages. Pepper is also not the first robot to make a name for itself in Japan. Car giant Honda has been developing a humanoid robot called ASIMO since 2000, which was recently seen playing football with US President Barack Obama.

Read more: Introducing SAFFiR, the US Navy-developed fire-fighting robot (opens in new tab)

(opens in new tab)Pepper was developed by Softbank in collaboration with French company Aldebaran Robotics. Chief executive of Alderbaran, Bruno Maisonnier said, "The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology.

"It's just the beginning, but already a promising reality."Porthole Ad

Barclay Ballard
Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.