Pepper Humanoid Robot Debuts in France

Seven Pepper robots tested their skills at suggesting food recipes and wine choices to French customers.

Pepper, the humanoid robot from Softbank, has debuted in France, reports the AFP, marking the first time the companion robot has ventured outside of Japan.

On Tuesday, seven Pepper robots were placed in different parts of a popular store in the Claye-Souilly region to test their skills suggesting food recipes and wine choices and assessing customer satisfaction.

“It is the first time we are getting Pepper out of Japan, so we will see the reaction of users in France,” said Magali Cubier of Aldebaran Robotics, the subsidiary of Softbank that manufacturers the Pepper units. “The main focus is to entertain people and to test how they react to seeing a robot in a shop.”

France shouldn’t be a surprising choice as the second launching pad for Pepper. Aldebaran, maker of Pepper and Nao, is a French company that is 98% owned by Softbank.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (left) meets Softbank’s humanoid robot Pepper at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo. (Photo Credit: AFP/Toshifumi Kitamura)

Aldebaran sells about 1,000 Pepper robots monthly for $1,500 euros, according to Cubier, and there’s monthly subscription payments of about $200 euros for three years.

Pepper’s effort to spread to other markets comes with the challenge of adapting robots to different cultures. Pepper will shake hands with shoppers in France, but it will not greet them with robotic pecks on cheeks.

Hopefully Pepper stays out of harm’s way in France. You might remember that 60-year-old Kiichi Ishikawa was arrested in Japan for allegedly kicking a Pepper robot in a fit of rage. Ishikawa admitted to destruction of property after explaining he was frustrated with a store clerk.

Police obtained security footage that shows Ishikawa’s drunken robot kick. The Pepper robot now moves more slowly, and its internal processor may be damaged.

Pepper is expected to launch in the United States in 2016.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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