Buying a Pepper robot does not make your company innovative

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This is not yet another blogpost… this is a rant! What you’ll read below is extremely opinionated and no exact science, so feel free to give your opinion on the matter.

We all love Pepper

Pepper Robot by SoftBank Robotics

Now let me start by saying that having a pepper robot (or multiple) is not a crime and that the pepper robot is a beautiful product that we all have to nourish. It is the first iteration in the right direction on how robots are gradually getting mixed up in our lives.

But, love has its limits

I often attend conferences where it is inevitable to encounter a Pepper Robot. “Oh look, yet another company that has a Pepper”. The spark of interest is gone. It truly is nothing special anymore. 

First of all, most companies don’t do anything worthwhile with it. They simply buy the robot, make them say hello and lay out their banner: “look how innovative we are!”.
Or the good ol’: “Let’s make another marketing video, and let’s put a Pepper robot in it! It will make me look innovative!” 

Well people, stop doing it unless you’re able to back it up.

Merely having a Pepper is not a big deal

Pepper started out as a beautiful robot

Props to SoftBank Robotics, for they have created a very nice interface which is well documented. There is even a graphical programming tool called Choregraphe (for which there are YouTube Tutorials a plenty).

There are very nice applications of this robot and the companies just buying one to showcase their “A.I. capabilities” on yet another conference is an insult to the product.

Yet, Pepper quickly grew into an ancient relic of the past

Pepper was designed a good 5 years ago and came on the market a bit short of 4 years. Now, in computer science that counts as a decade ago

The pepper robot is no longer new and shiny, it has flaws and although it is a beautiful product, just having one is no big deal.

If you let a Pepper point to something, make signs with it or say something nerdy? Congrats! But that is not a big feat.

Know what you’re buying

Pepper lacks empathy

In my opinion Pepper was intended to assist in customer experiences. The Pepper Robot as an assistant is therefore inherently built to fail, because customer experience is all about empathy. The robot understands basic emotions and can be programmed to adjust itself appropriately. This makes the Pepper a fun toy to play around with. Nothing more. Simply having one says nothing about your company.  But again, that’s just my opinion.

The Pepper is flawed

Since pepper can be considered a giant IoT device, it has to be treated as such. This means that security on IoT devices should be on your radar.  Well, OWASP got you covered in that regard.

A.I. has a dark side to it, that we need to cover by design. Yes, by design. No let’s-fix-this-later’s here.

Right after Christmas I stumbled on this paper about security on the Pepper Robot. I’m not going to go into detail about this article. In short, the article concludes: don’t use a Pepper Robot, it’s one big security flaw!

The robot that gets hacked easily

It’s a walk in the park to hack it and let it shout the competitors name instead of yours.

Ethical hackers have turned this robot into a stabbing machine

Having it become programmed to become a stabbing machine is quite scary when you consider that one of the main intended applications of the pepper is to be used in the healthcare industry.

In sum: Pepper is a bumper sticker for your company

Is it just a toy for you? Cool. You go ahead and just program its API. But please smack my booty and call me Mary, I won’t be impressed. 

Actually, quite the opposite. You’ll be yet another company that spent money on something it hardly understands.

My frustration boils down to the fact that Pepper is just used as a sticker on your car without understanding what It beholds.  A very expensive sticker by the way.

And I don’t like that. One. Bit.

Kevin Smeyers

Kevin Smeyers is the current Machine Learning architect at ToThePoint Group. Machine Learning and AI is a specialty he picked up again since his days as a computer science student--after having gained various experiences in multiple other IT domains. Passionate about finding the fun side in things, he continued building up a track record in experimenting with a combination of IoT and Machine Learning. Always looking for the algorithm behind the algorithm, it comes as no surprise that Kevin is a speedcubing fan with a personal best of 32 seconds. As an enthusiastic hobbyist with a job, he’s eager to talk about his passion.

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