Softbank’s Pepper robot, which just last week went on sale in Taiwan, is gearing up for its release in the United States. Softbank announced today a week-long demo at b8ta, a software-powered retailer in Palo Alto, Calif., where Pepper will greet customers that come into the store.
This marks the first job, albeit temporary, that Pepper has landed in the US. The demo will run Aug. 11-18.
Softbank reiterated its plans to launch Pepper in the US later in 2016, but there’s still no specific timetable for its release. Softbank says Pepper will offer “businesses and brands a new way to engage and entertain their customers,” so there’s also no indication Pepper will be available to consumers in the US any time soon.
Softbank also announced today that it will hold a developer’s workshop at b8ta on August 16 from 7-9 p.m to learn about Robotics as a Platform (RaaP) and how to create custom robot apps for Pepper. A developer version of Pepper was supposed to launch in the US in July 2016.
“b8ta gives people a chance to touch, play, and interact with cutting-edge technology that’s poised to become a part of their daily lives,” said Steve Carlin, VP Marketing & Business Development for SBRA. “We’re thrilled that Pepper will be joining the b8ta crew for a week, welcoming customers and introducing them to the very near-future experience of robot helpers in stores and businesses. We have no doubt that after meeting Pepper, b8ta customers will be eager for that future.”
Standing four feet tall and outfitted with built-in sensors, microphones, and shape recognition cameras to identify humans, Pepper was designed to interact and communicate with people and provide information and assistance in business settings. And it’s certainly done just that, to the tune of more than 700 businesses.
Pepper is probably best known for selling iPhones at Softbank mobile stores in Tokyo. Pepper has also worked at Pizza Hut, on cruise ships, at a Tokyo half-way house mentoring ex-cons, and at schools in Singapore.
You might also see Pepper working at hotels. The Nao robot, also made by Softbank, was tested as a concierge at the Hilton McLean in Virginia. The Nao robot, called Connie, answered questions from guests about nearby restaurants, tourist attractions and more. However, Carlin told The Robotics Trends Show that ultimately Pepper will replace Nao as the robot concierge of choice.
Pepper, of course, is a major part of Softbank’s future that will focus on the Internet of Things. Softbank recently acquired ARM Holdings for $32 billion. ARM Holdings designs the microprocessors that power more than 95 percent of the world’s smartphones.