Pepper: a peek into the future of social robotics

Pepper is the world’s first humanoid robot that can recognise emotions. Created by SoftBank Robotics, it also mimics human behaviours such as following the conversation around it by looking at whoever is speaking. We are using Pepper as a social robotics research platform to explore the potential for humanoid robots.

“The degree to which social robots could change society is the basis of our new research program,” said project leader Belinda Ward.

“Pepper is probably the most ‘personable’ robot on the market in terms of its perceived emotional intelligence, making it a fantastic platform to investigate the suitability of social robots, which is still a very new field.

The $1.5 million social robotics research program developed by Centre COO Sue Keay, is funded by the Advance Queensland initiative and will involve the Centre’s collaboration with SoftBank Corp’s subsidiary, ST Solutions Australia (STSA).

Belinda said the funding would allow her team to explore the different applications of these robots across a range of settings and conditions and their effectiveness in each.

“While a social robot in every home is probably a long way off for society, I see a place for social robots supporting human staff in every hospital, aged care facility and classroom, as companions and helpers, with many more settings to be considered in the future.

“Would a shy child in a classroom be more willing to ask a question of the robot rather than the class? Would a nursing home resident enjoy reminiscing about their past to a robot? Would a hospital patient feel comfortable chatting with a robot as it tidied their room?”

Belinda’s team will also work with STSA to improve Pepper’s vision and navigation systems, making the robot even more versatile in the future.