An Astro Boy-inspired robot designed to recognize and respond to human emotions sold out within a minute of its launch on Saturday.
SoftBank Robotics announced that 1,000 units were snatched up, and no more will be available until next month.
Described as "the world's first personal robot that can read emotions," Pepper is said to be equipped with a "heart" that enables it to artificially generate its own emotions. The company says the robot's emotion functions are modeled on the human release of hormones in response to external stimuli. Pepper can process information from its cameras and sensors, and takes cues from people's facial expressions and words, as well as by its environment.
Although the wheeled robot isn't equipped to do household chores, it can follow voice commands, and search for information online. SoftBank asserts Pepper will develop its own personality of sorts, tied to its interactions with people.
At a presentation Thursday in Urayasu, Japan, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said the inspiration for Pepper came from childhood memories of Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, who couldn't understand why humans cry. Son made it a point to ensure that Pepper can weep.
Pepper costs about $1,610, plus $200 a month for data and maintenance insurance.