Using a verse.reading robot for mourners seems like an effective idea for people at Nissei Eco, a plastic products maker that has a side business in the field of funerals.

The company hired a human.sized robot called Pepper, dressed him in Buddhist priestly clothes and programmed him to recite some Sutra, or Buddhist scriptures, depending on the religious stream to which the dead belonged.

But the robot, which is manufactured by the Japanese company Softbank, has been constantly broken down in experimental sessions. “What if he refuses to act in the middle of a ceremony?” Said funeral director Osmo Funky. “It would be such a disaster.“

Pepper Potter. The company terminated the contract for the rental of the robot and returned it to the manufacturer. After several such mishaps occurred across Japan, for example when Pepper messed up at work in a nursing home and gave baseball fans an unpleasant feeling, some people say the robot itself will have to be buried soon.

“Because it has the form of a human, people expect it to have the intelligence of a human,” said Takiyuki Puruta, head of the Center for Future Robotic Technology at the Chiba Institute of Technology, which was not involved in Pepper’s development. “The level of technology doesn’t reach that at all. It’s like the difference between a toy car and a real car.“

Softbank’s robotics unit, a Tokyo.based technology investment firm, announced in late June that it had stopped producing Pepper last year and plans to make a structural change to its international robotics teams, including a unit in France involved in Pepper’s development.

And yet, the company says the machine should not be sent to a cemetery for instruments. Kitmora Islands spokeswoman said Pepper is an icon of Softbank and still does a good job as a teacher and temperature tester in hospitals. She declined to comment on any glitches in his action.

Softbank introduced the world to this humanoid robot in 2014, and began selling it a year later. “Today may be the day that people in 100, 200 or 300 years’ time will remember a historic day,” Softbank CEO Messiushi Sun said as he introduced the robot.

Softbank sold the robot to private individuals for about $ 2,000, in addition to monthly payments for services per subscriber, and leased it to businesses for an amount that started at $ 550 a month.

Like a candidate who gives a good impression and then drives the bosses crazy

Japan’s affair with humanoid robots began in Astro Boy, a robot that was a character in a television animated series in the 1960s. But there were moments of crisis in this novel.

The Asimo robot, manufactured by Honda, once gave football a kick to Barack Obama, then president of the United States. The two robots disappeared.

More recently, a Japanese hotel chain set up a robot.powered hotel, with dinosaur.like robots running tasks at the main counter, and soon changing direction after the program failed to save money and created more work for humans.

Pepper is given a vital character and is software to understand human emotions and be able to have a basic conversation. In early demonstrations, the robot was a star. But as a candidate who gives a good impression in a job interview and then drives his bosses crazy, they would not pepper the skills he said he had, handing over some of the managers who worked with him.

In 2016, a nursing home in Tokyo from a company called Ittokai introduced three Pepper units, each priced at about $ 900 a month, for conducting public singing and gymnastics for adults, Deri Nursing Home.

“Users got excited at first because of the innovation,” said Mastaka Iyida, one of the network’s executives. “But they lost interest earlier than expected,” Aida said the robot’s repertoire of movements was limited and because of mechanical errors, he sometimes made unplanned breaks in the middle of his shift. After three years, the company stopped using it.

At Mizuho Financial Group, reporters were invited to a ceremony in 2015 in which Pepper was introduced as an employee of the company and placed in the bank’s lobby, with a name tag around his neck, recommending financial products to customers. Today Pepper no longer works at the bank, a Mizuho spokeswoman said, refusing to elaborate.

“It was a waste of money”

Softbank also praised Pepper as a home assistant. The first thousand units produced were sold in one minute despite the high price tag.

Technology reporter Tsotsumu Ishikawa said he “fell in love at first sight” after seeing Sun, the CEO of Softbank, present a futuristic picture of life alongside the chatty Pepper. The robot, which is connected to the cloud, is supposed to remember the family even after a malfunction, says Ishikawa, but when Pepper returned home after repairing a sensor, he told Ishikawa “Nice to meet you!”.

He sent the robot back to Softbank in 2018 after spending at least $ 9,000 on his three.year subscription agreement; He was not entitled to any kind of refund. “It was such a waste of money. I still regret it,” he said.

On websites, you can buy used Pepper models for a few hundred dollars, usually without Softbank service contracts. They are sold as home or office decoration or as a toy that children can disassemble into pieces.

Industry analysts say that smart speakers or the voice assistant that accompanies many phones today can perform many of Pepper’s tasks more reliably and at low cost. Dr. Foruta, a robot technology expert, said that if Pepper was meant to be an entertainment robot, it would have been better to design it as a dog or even a bear, to avoid raising expectations.

Some companies swear by this advice. One former manager in Softbank’s robotics department is leading a start.up that produces a round robot called Lovot and is designed to function as a pet. The robot is designed to encourage humans and improve their mood, but not help them perform tasks or work. The Nikovo robot, introduced by the Panasonic Corporation this year, is designed as a vulnerable creature that is supposed to stimulate its owner’s care. His abilities include the ability to make swelling noises.

Softbank’s robotics department says Pepper still works teaching children and entertaining diners at a Pepper.themed cafe in Tokyo, among other jobs. During the Corona plague, Pepper found himself a niche as a gatekeeper in hotels where Corona patients were housed and human staff members tried to maintain social distance.

Pepper may also appear at the Olympics that started yesterday in Tokyo, but Softbank’s robotics department declined to provide further details.

The company provided 100 Pepper cheerleaders to the home ground of Softbank’s professional baseball team, the Hawks of Softbank, in Fukuoka in southern Japan. The stadium was barely filled due to restrictions related to the corona plague. Kitmora, a spokeswoman for Softbank, said the robots could add to the excitement without posing an increased risk of infection.

But on the network, commenters said the scene seemed dystopian to them. Hirofomi Miato, 56, from Tokyo, watched the game on TV and saw the group of robots wearing team uniforms and moving their arms evenly. It did not make him want to cheer.

“It would have looked like a military parade in North Korea or China,” Miato said. “It was unpleasant.“

By Editor

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