'Empathetic' robot Pepper fitted with new artificial intelligence technology

Japanese telecoms group Softbank is to incorporate artificial intelligence technology from IBM into its empathetic robot Pepper, which goes on sale later this month.

'Empathetic' robot Pepper fitted with new artificial intelligence technology

Japanese telecoms group Softbank is to incorporate artificial intelligence technology from IBM into its empathetic robot Pepper, which goes on sale later this month.

An AI engine called Watson is already used in health care, travel and insurance services in English, but an adaptation was needed to make it work and think in Japanese, said Steve Gold, vice president of the IBM Watson Group.

Unlike other cognitive technology that responds rather mechanically, Watson can learn over time like a human brain, and understands the concept of probability, which makes it very sophisticated and more human-like for applications, according to IBM.

"It depends on the context of the conversation as to what the right answer would be," as opposed to how a computer would generally try to answer correctly, Mr Gold said.

"The world is seldom absolute."

Watson will be used in Pepper, which is going on sale in Japan this month for 198,000 yen (€1,592), and will make for a smarter, more charming companion, he said.

Pepper has a stunned face a bit like C3PO in Star Wars and moves around on wheels.

In early demonstrations it was a bit mechanical in its responses, but Mr Gold said Watson will change that.

For example, two plus two is four in arithmetic but in another context it could refer to a car design, Mr Gold said.

Watson is designed to figure out context and know which answer is more likely.

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