SoftBank’s Pepper Robot Gets Emotional Intelligence

August 29, 2018

Affectiva and SoftBank Robotics have partnered to enable robots to have more relational and human-like interactions with people. Affectiva’s Emotion AI will be integrated into SoftBank’s humanoid robot, Pepper, to allow Pepper to adapt its behavior based on a deep understanding of people’s complex emotional and cognitive states as they interact.

SoftBank’s Pepper robot is the first humanoid robot capable of recognizing human emotions, and adapting its behavior accordingly. Pepper was created specifically for the purpose of interacting with people in a highly relational way, equipped with multiple cameras, microphones and loudspeakers that help identify emotions based on facial and vocal cues. With its unique ability to perceive and interpret emotions, Pepper has been widely adopted as a companion robot, and is also increasingly deployed by businesses as a new way to interact with customers in retail stores, hotels, banks and other settings that require a concierge.

The integration of Affectiva’s Emotion AI in Pepper will expand Pepper’s emotion detection capabilities, allowing the robot to understand not only emotions, but complex cognitive states. Affectiva’s Emotion AI runs on-device in real-time, and can detect highly nuanced states based on people’s facial and vocal expressions. Beyond identifying fundamental human emotions such as joy, anger and surprise, Affectiva’s technology can detect more complex cognitive states and expressions such as distraction, drowsiness, or differentiating between a smile and a smirk. Understanding these complex states will enable Pepper to have more meaningful interactions with people, and adapt its behavior to better reflect the way people interact with one another.

“There’s a significant opportunity for robots like Pepper to improve the way we work and live, as we’ve seen through the many roles Pepper has already taken on as a companion and a concierge,” said Marine Chamoux, Affective Computing Roboticist, SoftBank Robotics. “But this is only the beginning – especially as Pepper continues to evolve and learns to relate to people in increasingly meaningful ways. Our partnership with Affectiva will help us to take Pepper’s abilities to the next level, allowing Pepper to better respond to the many emotional and cognitive states people experience. Moreover, the partnership really signifies the next generation of human-machine interaction, as we approach a point where our interactions with devices and robots like Pepper more closely mirrors how people interact with one another.”

“As robots take on increasingly interactive roles with humans in many corners of society – spanning healthcare, retail, and even entering our homes – there’s a critical need for us to foster a deeper understanding and mutual trust between people and robots,” said Dr. Rana el Kaliouby, Co-founder and CEO of Affectiva. “Just as people interact with one another based on social and emotional cues, robots need to have that same social awareness in order to truly be effective as coworkers or companions. We’re thrilled to be partnering with SoftBank Robotics to make that a reality, and to give social robots the tools they need to reach their full potential.”

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