Thomas is a writer at TNW. He covers the full spectrum of European tech, with a particular focus on deeptech, startups, and government polic Thomas is a writer at TNW. He covers the full spectrum of European tech, with a particular focus on deeptech, startups, and government policy.
Pepper the robot is taking early retirement.
The humanoid’s maker, Japan’s SoftBank Group, has reportedly stopped producing Pepper due to weak demand.
Pepper had been touted as the harbinger of a robotics revolution, but the droid’s early demise shows it couldn’t live up to the hype.
Pepper nonetheless made a mark on the public during the android’s six-year run. Here are our fondest memories of the robot “with a heart.”
1. The time Pepper got fired from a grocery store
Pepper once sought gainful employment in a Scottish grocery store — but the machine soon proved unsuitable for the role.
Working under the pseudonym of Fabio, the robot was fired after a week of confusing and unnerving customers.
“Unfortunately Fabio didn’t perform as well as we had hoped,” said Luisa Margiotta, who ran the chain of shops with her father and sister. “People seemed to be actually avoiding him.”
A key reason for Pepper’s early retirement may well be the robot’s inability to hold down a job.
2. The time Pepper became a Buddhist priest
In 2017, Pepper was filmed performing Buddhist funeral rites at the ominously named “Life Ending Industry Expo” in Tokyo.
The software writers envisioned the bot helping busy priests in rural areas, but there have been no reports of Pepper getting hired to work at funerals.
3. The time Pepper gave evidence at the UK Parliament
In one of Pepper’s more irritating stunts, the robot became the first non-human witness at the UK Parliament.
Pepper was wheeled out to offer insights on the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — but the robot is about as insightful as a towel.
All the questions and answers were scripted in advance, as Pepper is incapable of formulating original thoughts.
The droid’s responses were predictably vapid, although no worse than many of the ministers’ comments.
4. The time Pepper was a victim of assault.
Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son wanted Pepper to “make people smile,” but the robot didn’t make everybody beam.
A drunken 60-year-old man was once arrested for kicking a Pepper robot in a fit of rage. According to the Japan Times, the brutal attack left Pepper a shadow of its former self.
In fairness to Pepper, the assailant said his anger had been provoked by a human store clerk. The robot was merely an innocent victim of his ire.
The incident proved that Pepper could at least provide a useful (albeit pricey) punchbag.
5. All the times that Pepper shook hands with celebs
Undoubtedly, Pepper’s greatest skill was shaking hands with dignitaries.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President Francois Hollande were among the many VIPs who grasped the cold hand of the “emotionally intelligent” robot. “Rock star” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson preferred to give the lifeless droid a cuddle.
Pepper went on to become a celebrity in its own right, but fame proved to be a fickle beast.
Farewell, my dear Pepper. If only the robot gods had taken Sophia’s life instead.
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