Creating a Home Companion Robot — A Look at SoftBank’s Pepper

Masayoshi Son, founder, chairman, and CEO of SoftBank, unveiled a robot called Pepper at a press conference near Tokyo, Japan in June 2014. SoftBank began selling the home companion robot for about US$2,000 the following year in Japan and other markets followed in the subsequent years. The robots are being manufactured by Taiwan’s giant electronics manufacturer, Foxconn.

My first personal encounter, and subsequent ones, with Pepper was at my local Carrefour hypermarket just across the street from the headquarters of Acer and Wistron in the Xizhi District of New Taipei City, Taiwan. My eldest daughter aged five is captivated by the loquacious humanoid.

How did Pepper’s development come about? SoftBank sought out Aldebaran, a French robotics company, to bring their idea to life. Aldebaran worked in secret for two years on the outskirts of Paris to develop the robot companion.

Let’s take a quick look at the specifications of Pepper to get an idea of what some of the requirements of a robotics project are:

Source: SoftBank/Aldebaran Robotics via IEEE Spectrum

SoftBank created a wonderful specifications page for Pepper that presents its features, capabilities, and components in text form rather than the typical specifications table you’d find in a user manual or data sheet that accompanies most tech products.

Jumpstart your home companion robotics project

Let’s consider some of the resources required to get a robotics project — like SoftBank’s home companion robot, Pepper — off the ground.

For your smart, connect robot project planning, product, mechanical, and PCB design services, and prototype consulting, we suggest connecting with an expert from Tokyo-based Kiluck.

Pepper includes twenty motors that control the movement of its head, shoulder, elbow, wrist, fingers, hip, knee, and base. Your robot project may not need as many motors as Pepper includes. We suggest getting in contact with an expert from Namiki Precision for DC motor solutions — provider of instrument quality coreless DC and brushless motors — for your project.

 

Your project will likely require IoT components such as haptic feedback devices and sensor modules. We suggest ALPS Electric as a resource for needs such as these.

For touch, accelerometer, gyro, ultrasonic, infrared, and other sensors, and wireless RF modules (cellular, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth, etc.) that might be required in developing your home companion robot, check with a specialist in IoT components, sensors, and modules like Kyoto-based Murata.

An important consideration is developing the software for the control of your robot. Fortunately, there are excellent control software options available. Asratec is a Tokyo-based robotics company that developed the V-Sido OS robot control system.  It controls various shapes, sizes, and structures of robots and is useful software for controlling robots, especially when prototyping new robots. They also developed the V-Sido CONNECT microcomputer board that enables easy control of the robot’s motors.

 

ACCESS cooperated with Kawamura HEMS (Home Energy Management System) University based in Nagoya, Japan to develop a smart home control and energy management system using ACCESS NetFront Agent to interface between a smart home gateway and SoftBank’s Pepper robot. HEMS University is part of Kawamura Electric Inc., a manufacturer of distribution boards, control boards, residential distribution boards, enclosures, circuit breakers, high voltage substations, system racks, energy conservation and low-voltage equipment. Learn more about ACCESS and connect with an expert on the HWTrek platform who can help you leverage their solutions for a smart, connect home control and management system robot assistant.

Finally, we recommend looking for a company with considerable experience building complete robotics projects like Japan’s tmsuk. Tmsuk specializes in the development and manufacture of service robots.

If you’re embarking on a home companion robotics project or have already completed one, we’d love to hear about your journey.

Recommended experts from the HWTrek hardware development ecosystem community

 

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Asratec is a Tokyo-based robotics company that developed the V-Sido OS robot control system. You can get in touch with an expert from Asratec on HWTrek to learn more.

 

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Japan’s ALPS Electric is IoT component maker for Automotive, Home, Mobile, Healthcare, and Environment. Connect with an expert with ALPS on the HWTrek platform.

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We recommend Kyoto-based Murata, which specializes in the design, manufacture, and supply of IoT electronic components, sensors, and modules. Feel free to connect with an expert from Murata on HWTrek.

 

Tokyo-based ACCESS is a provider of advanced IoT software development and solutions for the smart home and connected automobile. Connect with one of their experts here.

 

Start your search for DC motor solutions with Namiki Precision for. Learn more by connecting with an expert from Namiki on HWTrek.

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Look to Kiluck for project planning, product, mechanical, and PCB design services, and prototype consulting. Connect with an expert from Tokyo-based Kiluck on HWTrek.

Japan’s tmsuk specializes in the development and manufacture of service robots. Learn more from tmsuk’s expert on the HWTrek platform.