Empathic Things: This Humanoid Robot Understands Your Emotions


A few months ago we published our second report on the Internet of Things called Empathic Things. We argued that “In the past few years, information technology has become increasingly personal and social and has made its presence very much felt. The emergence of wearable computing and other forms of empathic ‘things’ seems a logical further step: even more intimate, more human-oriented, and ubiquitous. There are more and more devices that count our steps, take our blood pressure or measure the indoor temperature, track our location or conversations.”

A few weeks back I already wrote a article on a gaming system with sensors that could tell if people were happy or sad, excited or bored and adjusted the gameplay accordingly.

Now let me introduce you to Pepper, one of the first in a new breed of emotionally intelligent humanoid robots. Pepper is created by and Japanese firm SoftBank and is able to judge situations with its many sensors–reading emotions through facial expressions and voice tone. According to its creators, Pepper can tell jokes, react to your emotions, and even dance for entertainment. This new robotic friend runs on 12 hours of continuous battery life, and has the ability to synchronize with the cloud through an Internet connection. Here’s a video of Pepper showing off his human qualities:

Basically, Pepper is designed to make you happy, which is why he’s primarily being marketed as a home companion or caregiver for children and the elderly. SoftBank hopes to make the robot available for purchase in Japan in February 2015, with a price of just under $2,000

Passing the Turing Test
Pepper might have human-like qualities like emotions and empathy, at this point it will never pass the Turing Test. The Turing test is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In the original illustrative example, a human judge engages in natural language conversations with a human and a machine designed to generate performance indistinguishable from that of a human being. All participants are separated from one another. If the judge cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test.

Another A.I. program called  Eugene Goostman actually did past the test this weekend. The Goostman program managed to “trick” humans into believing he was human 33% of the time, and therefore passing the official Turing Test threshold for the first time.

This is not the final tipping point for robots and A.I. however because the test isn’t really relevant. Some argue that “the test has become an arbitrary way of measuring something that can’t really be measured: Whether or not a computer is actually thinking“.

You can try an online version of Eugene Goostman right here, although it seems down for now. Also, if your interested in Empathic things, please download and read our latest report.

Sogeti Labs


SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.

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