SoftBank Opens Pepper Robot to Android Developers

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Why should electronics stores and hotels have all the fun? SoftBank is opening its humanoid robot Pepper to more developers.

New Android compatibility will allow app makers to create programs for the walking, talking, emotional droid.

A beta version of the Pepper SDK for Android Studio will be available for free starting May 19. According to Bloomberg, Android will power the robot's chest tablet; SoftBank's Naoqi OS handles the hardware.

"By making Pepper compatible with Android, Android application developers will be able to utilize their existing knowledge and technologies to develop RoboApps for Pepper," SoftBank said in a statement. "With the high number of Android developers around the world, the possibilities for Pepper RoboApp developers will greatly increase with Android support."

The Japanese mobile operator in 2014 teamed up with Aldebaran Robotics to develop Pepper, the world's first personal robot that can read emotions. Equipped with a 10.1-inch touch display, voice-recognition technology, and emotion recognition, the robot can also wave its arm or nod its head.

The first 1,000 Pepper robots went on sale in Japan last summer. At launch, Pepper boasted 200 robotic apps available for download, alongside pre-installed basic services. Other programs become available as you spend time with the machine.

SoftBank will begin taking pre-orders in July for developer models, available for ¥198,000 ($1,793).

But robotics testing doesn't come cheap: Expect additional charges for 36 months of the Pepper Basic Plan (¥424,800) and insurance (¥352,800); the total, three-year cost comes to ¥975,600 ($8,842).

There is no word on a US release, though TechCrunch reports a full launch slated for "later this year."

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