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Thursday, 05 June 2014 12:15

Japanese bankers to peddle French robots made in Taiwan

Written by Nick Farrell

What could possibly go wrong?

Japan's SoftBank has decided to start flogging human robots for personal use by February.

Apparently this was not an expansion into the sex industry but an expansion into a sector seen key to addressing labour shortages in one of the world's fastest ageing societies. The robots, which the mobile phone and Internet conglomerate envisions serving as baby-sitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions, will cost $1,900 and are capable of learning and expressing emotions.

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son told a news conference that a prototype will be deployed this week, serving customers at SoftBank mobile phone stores in Japan, he added. The sleek, waist-high robot, named Pepper, accompanied Son to the briefing, speaking to reporters in a high-pitched, boyish voice.

"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, emotions," Son said.

The robots were developed by French robotics company Aldebaran, in which SoftBank took a stake in 2012, and will be manufactured by Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry. They will use cloud computing to share data that can develop their own emotional capabilities. Son said they would not share an owner's personal information.

We would have thought that looking for service from a French Robot is going to be a little tricky. If you come into a back the last thing you want is a robot to tell you in a high-pitched voice that it is busy and it has no interest in serving someone whose cooking skills involve killing whales or serving everything in soya sauce. It would not work with German tourists either, as it would surrender in 4.7 seconds. Of course if it is made by Foxconn it will then become depressed and kill itself.

Nick Farrell

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