SoftBank’s emotional robot Pepper could be considered a hit in Japan ,with the first wave of 1,000 bots selling out in a minute and another 1,000 ready to move at the end of this month. But is Pepper’s popularity peculiar to purely people in one part of the Pacific? Perhaps.

We may soon find out according to a report in MIT Technology Review. One of their writers visited Aldebaran Robotics, the company which made Pepper along with SoftBank, and learned that an American Pepper is already well into development and has been given a significant attitude adjustment of the smart-ass kind to better fit in there.

■ Human upset. Peek-a-boo function initiated…
When writing previously about Pepper’s prohibition of use in facilitating casual heterosexual intercourse, I watched a promotional video for the pleasant plastic pal and was a little confused by something I saw.

In the opening vignette, a young adult woman comes home and is greeted by Pepper. The woman, clearly in a foul mood, tells Pepper to shut up and throws a shirt in its face.

She then grabs a beer from the fridge and begins to cry profusely on the couch.

Watching this, Pepper decides its a good time to play peek-a-boo with this grown woman.

Instantly she begins to smile and laugh, eventually thanking Pepper and hugging it.


It’s moments like this when the cultural divide between east and west seem huge, because never in my wildest dreams would I think peek-a-boo was an appropriate way to deal with an emotionally distraught adult.

■ Like, could I BE any more robotic?!
Aldebaran seems to feel that way too. Their US version of Pepper will be something more of a wise-cracker, or as Alia Pyros of Aldebaran Robotics described it as “this kind of C3-PO idea, where he’s kind of snarky and kind of smart.”

When MIT Technology Review‘s Will Knight met with a westernized Pepper he said it offered to high-five him on several occasions. Also, when asked if it would go all Terminator on the writer Pepper replied “Do I really have to answer that?”

▼ “…and I was like ‘Do I really have to answer that?’ And the reporter guy was all like ‘Whoa!’ Hahaha! Yeah, he’s totally gonna put that in the article.”

There were no reports of Pepper attempting to initiate peek-a-boo with Knight, but we suspect he was in a good mood while visiting.

■ Reactions
Pepper’s new personality drew comments from both America and Japan. In the west people seemed more concerned with Pepper’s functionality than its bon mots.

“Personally – and this is blatant and unfair stereotyping and I really should know better but – I think Japan is too deeply polluted with twee to do snark properly.”

“It can move its hands but I believe it can’t even give you a pencil right? So it’s just a touchscreen that moves with siri-like features?”

“For $1,600 and monthly subscription, what else does it do except crack wise with prerecorded messages?”

“But what if I want Pepper to be kawaii AND in English?”

“This thing would get its ass kicked in Philly.”

“Am I the only American that dislikes sarcasm? It’s a negative type of humor that really doesn’t create good vibes.”

“[response to above] Yes.”

Meanwhile on this side of the Pacific where the bar for what is kawaii is quite high, many people were surprised that their version of Pepper was being described as “cute” at all.

“I don’t really find [Pepper] all that cute actually.”

“Its face is kind of repugnant.”

“Its got a leering face.”

“For Americans, sarcasm is commonplace. It’s an unpleasant national characteristic.”

“I expect robot abuse to go on the rise over there.”

“Won’t they have to recall it? I mean, with that god-awful appearance AND sarcasm, the warranty costs of damage due to punching it will skyrocket.”

Having spent considerable time on both sides of the ocean and dealing with both overly saccharine and overly smarmy service people, it’s hard to say if either are desirable personality traits to have in a living companion given the choice.

▼ “Whoa, is someone overclocking you, cause baby you’re HOT! Naw, I’m just clownin’ so uh, you said you were looking for something about the aboriginal rights movement? I think it’s over here…”

Actually, why try to give robots human characteristics at all? They’re machines, not people, so let them act like machines or at the very least like those robots from the 50’s that say “DOES NOT COMPUTE AHHHH” and wiggle their arms when you try to impart human emotion on them. After all, R2-D2 was much less “human” than C3-PO, and I’d wager R2 is by far the more endearing droid of that comedic relief team.

Source: SoftBank, Yurukuyaru, Gizmodo, MIT Technology Review
Top image: Aldebaran Robotics
Insert images: YouTube/SoftBank, Aldebaran Robotics