Kaname Hayashi, project leader of Humanoid Robot "Pepper" poses for photos with "Pepper" at SoftBank Mobile shop in Tokyo, Friday, June 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
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A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile.Son's mobile phone company Softbank said Thursday that the robot it has dubbed Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900). The 121 centimeter (48 inch) tall, 28 kilogram (62 pound) white Pepper, which has no hair but two large doll-like eyes and a flat-panel display stuck on its chest, was developed jointly with Aldebaran Robotics, which produces autonomous humanoid robots.Cuddly robots are not new in Japan, a nation dominated by "kawaii," or cute culture, but no companion robot has emerged as a major market success yet.There is little emphasis on delivering on practical work, in contrast to industrial robots at factories and military robots for war.But the potential is great for intelligent machines as the number of elderly requiring care is expected to soar in rapidly-aging Japan in coming years. Robotic technology is already used to check on the elderly and monitor their health and safety, but robots might also play a role in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.
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