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SoftBank’s Humanoid Robot ‘Pepper’ shakes hands with Android

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The humanoid robot ‘with a heart’ Pepper, released by the Japanese software giant SoftBank will now support Android Apps on its platform, more specifically the tablet attached to the chest of the robot.

The Pepper is an emotional robot with an array of cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer and other sensors embedded in its endocrine-type neural network that helps it respond to feelings of joy, love and happiness and evolve as it communicates. The Pepper Robot is a huge hit in the Japanese markets and is currently being used by more than 500 companies. SoftBank sold about 1000 units of ‘Pepper’ on the launch day in about one minute but it seems that the company has found it difficult to attract developers onto the platform.

SoftBank Founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son taking cues from his idol, late Steve Jobs positioned the robot ‘Pepper’ as an application platform at the launch. Due to the same, SoftBank has suffered a loss on each of the 10,000 Pepper robots it has sold since its launch last year. The ‘Pepper’ doesn’t want to be left in ashes and be thought of as just a smart device.

Android comes to the rescue…

Using the Android platform on Pepper’s interface will allow developers to create a diverse set of applications for the robot. It surely puts a nail in Son’s dream to own a software platform of his own, but the addition of Android could significantly benefit the software front and also help boost sales. Bloomberg reports that this partnership cedes a measure of control of the platform to Google, who owns the operating system. The tech giant will now have the power to approve apps for the humanoid ‘Pepper’ and take a cut of the revenues.

Comparing SoftBank’s situation with the tumbling Windows platform – Neil Shah, research director for devices and ecosystems at Counterpoint Technology Market Research(in Mumbai) adds that,

Every operator wants to control the ecosystem, they don’t want to pay royalties and want to keep the data. But even Windows is struggling to attract developers to its mobile platform. So joining Android is a no-brainer for SoftBank.

Android will run in parallel with SoftBank’s proprietary software ‘Naoqi’ which controls the robot’s hardware. It’s responsible for controlling the 20 motors and highly articulated arms, which make it capable of human-like gestures and body-language. Son believes that the ‘child-like’ friendly appearance of the humanoid will attract buyers as well as developers to build apps to benefit the platform.

The news comes at a time when Google is busy announcing its plan for the future at Google I/O 2016. This partnership with SoftBank’s robotic division puts Android on the front-lines in the world of robotic advancements as well. Other interesting technological updates announced at I/O includes a Google Now replacement – ‘Google Assistant‘, an AI based chat messenger -Allo, a VR headset reference design, an almost final version of Android N and much more.

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A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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