SoftBank’s Pepper to Jump-Start the Internet of Robotics Things

On June 5th, Japanese Telco giant SoftBank has announced with much noise the launch of Pepper, a humanoid robot designed in collaboration with Aldebaran Robotics (SoftBank took a majority of stakes into Aldebaran Robotics in 2012) to read and react based on human emotions.

 

Salients

  • Cloud Intelligence – Pepper utilize a cloud based intelligence plateform to share with other similar systems the “knowledge” (digitalization of emotion) collected from usage to perfect its ability to react, thus enhancing the human-machine interaction
  • Lower Price Point – Pepper is officially priced a little under $2,000 USD which makes it an affordable luxury gadget not only for high tech aficionados but to a wide potential market.
  • “Emotional” Machines – SoftBank has put much emphasis on the solution capability to detect and appropriately react then report on individual’s emotions and lay its vision as creating “affectionate robots”.
  • An Apps Platform – SoftBank announced the launch of a developer event in September 2014 which foretell the ambition to make Pepper a viable and durable Apps platform.

Analysis

  • More Than a Smart Device – Strictly speaking, most of Pepper’s capabilities to capture emotions could, in theory, be done by more common high tech systems such as smartphones or tablets and the latest generation of these smart devices arguably integrate similar sensing capabilities and could command to side systems to “act” in the real world rather than displaying multimedia results. However, according to Myria’s definition chart below, Pepper is one whole machine that can be considered an “Intelligent System” because of its mobility and autonomy capability: this is a true differentiator as it allow the system to virtually not need any proactive input from users to collect more data and deliver value by acting in the real world. This is an Internet of Robotics Things (IoRT) object.
  • Hardware Limitation and Opportunities – The connection capabilities of the system, besides allowing “knowledge” sharing, certainly make possible software updates and enhancements. However the system remains self-limited because of its hardware component. In recent years, from the PC to the tablet world, it has been demonstrated that regular releases of advanced hardware systems was first creating new market expectation on one side, but also fueling the rapid development of new software capabilities and new usage. It is to be projected that as Pepper gets competition, a similar pattern will occur.
  • A Market for Network Providers – Wireless network providers like SoftBank are facing uncertainty and challenges regarding the sustainability of the growth of the number of wireless connections, particularly in developed economies, and for many of them the growth in number of these new connections is reaching a plateau. Peppers and the future like is a fantastic prospect to explore for network providers and applying similar business models as the ones used to reduce the price point of mobile devices and secure recurring revenues will only expand the “Pepper-like” addressable market. Actually, SoftBank is already seizing this opportunity: the announced price for Pepper is clearly marked as “not including monthly subscription”.