Nissei had wanted to use Pepper, a social robot, for its funeral business in Japan. The robot, created by the SoftBank Group Corp., was programmed to chant from Buddhist scriptures or sutras depending on the religion practiced by the dead person. Pepper was also dressed in Buddhist clergy attire.
But humanoid Pepper kept breaking down during practice sessions. Nissei team was afraid that Pepper could fail to operate in the middle of a funeral ceremony. Nissei ended the rental agreement and sacked Pepper.
Japan witnessed several gaffes by Pepper, including an instance of a mess-up at a nursing home.
When users were disappointed that the humanoid did not have the intellect of mankind, they felt Pepper got his farewell soon.
SoftBank put the production of Pepper on hold in 2020 saying they could make it as and when needed, reported BBC.
A French robotics company Aldebaran (now SoftBank Robotics) first unveiled Pepper as the first humanoid robot (4 ft tall weighing around 28 kg) in June 2014 and put him on sale a year later.
The company said that Pepper, a social robot, could recognize faces, read emotions, interact with people, and strike conversation through its touch screen. Pepper could sing, dance, and perform a trick or two. Pepper could be used as a companion at homes and in public places.
The company said that 27,000 Peppers were made and adopted by 2,000+ companies globally.
In 2018, Pepper worked in customer service engaging customers at the HSBC’s New York branch.
In 2018, Pepper answered questions of the UK’s parliamentarians related to the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in classrooms.
Pepper was tested as a companion robot in the UK's care homes and helped autistic school students. He was used as a receptionist in several offices and welcomed travellers at an airport in Montreal.
In July 2020, Pepper was part of a group of robots, which were used as cheerleaders at a baseball game; but fans expressed that Pepper gave them a ‘creepy feeling’.
The initial sale price for Pepper’s services was $1,790 but later a plan with monthly rentals of $360 was introduced.
Some experts welcomed SoftBank’s decision to pause Pepper as they felt that he created an incorrect impression of genuine robotics research and the capabilities of AI.
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)