Dubai: The Middle East has become latest market for SoftBank’s socio-humanoid robot, known as Pepper,
Nicolas Boudot, EMEA sales director for SoftBank’s Robotics Europe, said that it is available in the UAE even before the company rolls it out in China and US, both planned for later this year.
“We started marketing three years ago and have sold 10,000 robots, mostly in Japan and Europe. We are just at the beginning of humanoid robots, it is currently used for business-to-business but our aim is to make robots do our daily tasks at home,” he said at the Seamless Mideast Summit.
He said the value of a humanoid robot is the kind of relationship it will build with humans by interacting, which will include face, speech, voice recognition.
Jacky’s Business Solutions have been named as the regional distributor for Pepper.
“It [Pepper] can be used for any verticals such as retail, health care, hospitality, governments, tourism, etc. Pepper for us is a product and now it is a question of building a platform on top of the product. We will be working with the developer community in the region and we do feel that there is a lot of need and a lot can be developed locally to make it a lot better,” said Ashish Panjabi, COO at Jacky’s Business Solutions.
“Think of it as a smartphone, [which] can do basic things. [This] is the case for Pepper. The apps that you put on the smartphone make it what it is,” he said.
Right now, Emirates NBD and Dewa are using Pepper for customer service solutions.
Panjabi said English and Arabic languages are supported in the region while Boudot said that it will soon support 20 languages.
The Pepper robot alone costs around Dh91,000. Software is extra. It weighs 28 kilos and come with more than 150 sensors.
“There is no point in buying a PC without Microsoft Windows, Office and other apps. You can personalise your robot by downloading the software applications depending on your needs and moods,” he said.
“Our aim is to make robots a companion at home but it will take between five to 10 years. We have had experiments in the business-to-consumer space. What people are expecting from the robot is it to move around, have fluent discussions and conversations like we are having together know but that does not exist yet. The natural language processing capacity hasn’t improved a lot,” he said.
In future, he said that the company’s aim for the home robot is it to move around and navigate at home, take people from one place to another, manipulate an object, bring drinks and perform grasping activities.