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How to Make a Friend: Softbank In Search of the Human

A humanlike robot called "Pepper"
A humanlike robot called "Pepper"

Japanese telecom firm Softbank revealed “Pepper,” a humanoid robot that is able to read and express human emotions. In addition to the voice-recognition capabilities that allow Pepper to understand what someone is saying and how the person is feeling, the robot pal can talk, make jokes, and dance. The 48-inch tall robot could eventually serve as a medical worker, companion for the elderly, or even a friend.

Softbank said in a news release that people can communicate with Pepper as they would with friends and family, which means that the robot can act as a substitute for human counterparts. Pepper would be especially useful for individuals that experience a life of solitude, as artificial intelligence is now capable of expressing what is human. While robots such as Pepper may be practically useful for the elderly who require nursing care, the dynamic of human relationships can be deeply affected if people find robots like Pepper to be a more useful companion than other human beings.

The advancements in technology and social media have already reduced the need for people to actually encounter one another to communicate. As people become more attached to the gadgets that facilitate their social lives, it seems that Softbank’s new robot further justifies the strong attachment. Pepper can reduce the feeling of isolation by allowing an individual to find another human-like being to connect with. In essence, it allows humans to find interest in what is like-human, as if technology is the solution to improving the human condition.

Pepper also challenges the idea that artificial intelligence is incapable of comprehending natural emotions. By expanding the robot’s capabilities and giving it a heart, Softbank can potentially enhance people’s daily lives, help people develop, bring happiness, and redefine the meaning of human relationships. Technology continues to increase the efficiency of communication, and now it hopes to rediscover the intimacy of it.

Robots are already a part of the Japanese culture, but it remains to be seen how enthusiastic people are about robots that act human. Pepper represents a breakthrough in the invention of robots, a breakthrough involving the transfer of what is human into something that is non-human, as if people are on a search for something that is already within and around us.