“If you want a friend in Washington, get a robot.” The Internet seems unsure of the origins of the much older phrase, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Either way, for the first time, it has become possible to get a robot if you want a friend.
Her name is PEPPER. PEPPER stands 48 inches tall and weighs 62 pounds. French robot developer Aldebaran designed the robot for Japanese mobile operator Softbank. Aldebaran, as you might be aware, is also the developer of the most widely distributed robot ever made, NAO. In fact, PEPPER looks like a taller NAO on a wheeled pedestal instead of two articulated legs.
For those of you who are wondering why you'd want to befriend PEPPER when NAO is already available and looks more human, there are two good reasons: One, PEPPER’S friendship comes at a cost of around $2000 -- about an eighth the price of NAO. Two, PEPPER was specifically developed with friendship in mind.
According to Wikipedia, “Friendship is a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.” Since the political climate of Washington, DC, apparently precludes friendship between two people, we are left with friendship between people and their pets. In the pre-digital past, pets were usually other biologics like dogs (I’ve heard of ‘pet rocks’ but never believed it). The problem with dogs, however, is that they must be trained and looked after. PEPPER, on the other hand, has a rechargeable 12-hour lithium-ion battery and comes housetrained and preprogrammed. No accidents to clean up when the human returns homeafter a long day, as it were.
Now it is true that PEPPER’s molded-plastic body isn’t as pleasant to touch as a dog’s. But PEPPER doesn’t shed, either. And believe it or not, PEPPER comes programmed to react to your emotions with the same empathy and unconditional affection as Fido. Feeling a bit depressed? PEPPER will learn your emotions over time based on your facial expressions and voice tone, and with the assistance of voice-recognition technology and a 10.1 inch touch-screen it will attempt soothing human to humanoid communication (PEPPER speaks 17 more human languages than any dog). Need a pat on the back? PEPPER’s articulated arms and hands can handle that too.
The one thing that might trouble Washingtonians is that PEPPER learns as it goes with the help of a Wi-Fi feature that expands its knowledge through cloud-based synchronization with others of its kind. What one learns, they all learn. What one knows, they all know. The NSA would enjoy that ...