LOS ANGELES — Rapid advances in robotics are pointing to a future where robots are replacing humans as a source of companionship, and perhaps ultimately, serving as a source of sexual satisfaction.
Any doubts about the consumer appeal of household robotics were set to rest on June 20, with the release of SoftBank Mobile’s Aldebaran branded interactive child-size “Pepper” robot — with the first batch of 1,000 units reportedly selling out in one minute.
Pepper carries a retail price of approximately $1,600, and requires a $200 per month data package and insurance plan; but even at this cost, the company reports that it is initially selling the robot at a loss — noting that similar robots, such as Pepper’s smaller sibling, the tabletop sized NAO, come with a price tag that approaches $10,000.
Pepper has a chest-mounted tablet that helps it to express emotion, and is capable of understanding voice commands — as well as the emotions behind those voices — reacting appropriately; such as by sharing in its family’s joy (a demo video shows the robot shouting “Banzai!” in response to its owner’s wedding engagement), and comforting a young lady as she sheds tears.
Pepper provides a level of emotional support that countless consumers lack from other humans, providing bright prospects for this technology, but the device lacks the capability to provide useful physical assistance, and as such is not a replacement for your Roomba.
“This robot has been created to make people happy to interact with it,” explains a company spokesperson. “He’s an emotional robot, not a functional robot for domestic use with dish-washer or vacuum-cleaner functionalities.”
“Pepper will help people grow, enhance their life, facilitate relationships, he will have fun with them, give some services and connect them with the outside world,” the spokesperson added, noting that the robot, like humans, will evolve a unique personality based upon its experiences, displaying an emotional range that includes happiness and irritability.
SoftBank expects to release 1,000 units monthly, with the next batch hitting the Japanese market in July.
This robotic (r)evolution is rapidly progressing, with the next unit in the Aldebaran family, “Romeo,” shedding the wheels that drive Pepper in favor of feet, allowing the nearly five foot tall Romeo to not only open doors and pick up objects, but to climb stairs as well. Intended as an aid for the elderly and those who have lost mobility, Romeo is a major step in the humanization of robotics.
It is only a matter of time until somebody offers a version with functional naughty bits, with perhaps a customizable RealDoll style skin overlaid upon an existing robotic design.
For those who scoff at the notion, it is important to note that the robustness of today’s live cam market is due in large part to the emotional interactivity that separates this type of content from static photos and videos. Furthermore, the perennial use of sex toys by both females and males alike show that sexual pleasure from non-organic foreign objects is nothing new for carnal consumers. Combine the two and a new world of wanking will emerge.
A developer program is fueling new applications for Pepper and its future siblings, providing additional options for adult entertainment companies, and while it is in Japanese, a YouTube video demonstrates Pepper interacting with its “families,” providing inspiration for forward-looking device developers.
For more information, visit Aldebaran.com.