Japanese robot Pepper is ready to unthaw the hearts of any consumer who wants one. Maker Softbank said that it'll go on sale June 20th through a partnership with China's Alibaba and Foxconn Technology. As a reminder, the 4-foot humanoid 'bot is designed communicate realistically and even read your body language and tone of voice. It also "enjoys" human contact via touch sensors in the head and hands, and can detect you with an array of high-definition cameras, depth sensors and microphones. The manga-like eyes follow your movement, and the wheeled body -- which moves fairly gracefully -- is driven by 20 motors.
Softbank originally used Pepper as a greeter in its phone stores, but it has other commercial ambitions for the wee 'droid. It would make a good learning or play toy in homes and schools, as kids seem to love it (see the video below), and could also be put to work assisting the elderly. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son said that businesses would be more likely employ it to engage with customers, not do menial chores (it's not that strong anyway). "We think there's value in a robot that can understand human feelings," he said.
Softbank will sell Pepper at $1,600 or so, which it says is less than the cost to produce it. However, it'll come with service fees totaling up to $200, which the company hopes will eventually make it a profit. It'll start off by manufacturing about 1,000 robots a month, and will likely sell it overseas in Europe and the US starting next year. If you think it might make the perfect robo-pal, however, just remember the fate of poor Aibo.