Social robots are designed to interact with humans and are developed primarily for use as companions and assistants.
As part of our partnership with SoftBank Robotics Europe (formerly Aldebaran), the creators of “Pepper” and “Nao”, we develop software that brings these interactive robots to life. We create appropriate programs for specific application areas and customer requirements. In contrast to other “smart” devices, such as watches and washing machines, these robots are very intuitive to interact with – almost “human”.
Pepper, the Robot
Pepper is communicative and helpful. Its sophisticated sensory technology makes interacting with it very intuitive, whether via speech, gestures, or touchscreen. It is the first social humanoid robot capable of interpreting and reacting appropriately to simple emotions expressed by a person.
In addition, depending on the use case, it can retrieve information from the Internet, in order to answer questions, for example, or to retrieve data from a corporate system. Other, external AI services can also be integrated to enhance its capabilities – like, for example, computer vision.
Pepper’s most important technical features at a glance
- Speech recognition and dialogue available in 15 languages
- Perception modules for recognising and interacting with the person talking to it
- 20 degrees of movement for natural and expressive movements
- Touch sensors, LEDs on the head, eyes, ears, and shoulders, plus microphones and an attached tablet for multimodal interactions
- Anti-collision system with infrared sensors, bumpers, an inertial measurement unit, 2D and 3D cameras, as well as ultrasonic sensors for omnidirectional and (semi-)autonomous navigation
Thanks to its capabilities and friendly appearance, Pepper can greet people, provide customer support and product information, or give directions. It can also be used to analyse customer satisfaction levels or to provide entertainment. In addition, Pepper also functions as a research and development platform for new capabilities and applications in social robotics. In our inovex Lab, we have been using interaction-oriented robots like Pepper (and Nao) for several years now. The inovex Lab serves both to promote young talent by offering internships and thesis-writing opportunities and to train our experts. inovexpert Silvia Santano has worked intensively with Pepper and summarizes the results in her blog post Affective Robots: Emotionally Intelligent Machines.
Pepper in practice
Pepper has been deployed in several practical assignments. For example, it made a guest appearance at STELLWERK WEST in the heart of Stuttgart. This is a facility that can be booked by companies for meetings, workshops, and corporate events – an ideal environment for Pepper. During the events, visitors were able to get to know Pepper and talk to them. It acted as a “service employee”, talking about itself, providing guests with the Wi-Fi password, showing the way to the toilets, and letting visitors take selfies with it.
Pepper has also made an appearance at Stuttgart’s Gerber shopping centre. This event was part of a joint doctoral project by the Friedrich–Alexander University Erlangen–Nürnberg and the Munich-based management consultancy elaboratum, the aim of which was to explore how android robots can be used in brick-and-mortar retail and how customers react to these social robots. Visitors to the Gerber Centre were able to see what it feels like to talk to a robot, as well as take selfies with it, for example. inovex is responsible for programming the versatile robot to ensure that such appearances run smoothly.
Pepper at the ICSR Conference
We describe our work with Pepper in a scientific article which we published and presented at the ICSR (International Conference on Social Robotics) 2018 in New York. The paper received the “Best Paper Award” at the International Conference on Social Robotics in New York.
Pepper at Girls’Day
On Girls’Day, girls are given the opportunity to explore occupations and courses in IT, skilled trades, natural sciences and technology – fields in which women have traditionally been underrepresented. Every year at its Karlsruhe location, inovex organizes a Girls’ Day event during which, among many other exciting projects, the girls can meet Pepper, explore its functions more closely, and give it commands.