'Robots take over... the phone store in Japan' [ITN]
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Japanese mobile phone and internet company Softbank have introduced a prototype robot called Pepper, one it hopes could be sold for personal use as soon as February 2015. Pepper is outfitted with 25 sensors to stop it from bumping into people and is capable of learning and expressing emotions. Pepper units will also share data via cloud computing and have a battery life of 12 hours before needing to recharge, a process SoftBank say takes six hours. To see how the public would react to Pepper, SoftBank took the robot to one of its Tokyo stores, where it proved a big hit with the customers. Aside from entertaining shoppers SoftBank are hoping that Pepper units could serve as baby-sitters, nurses, emergency medical workers or even party companions. The Japanese government hope that advances in robotics could offset the decline in the labour force as the country's population is one of the most rapidly ageing in the world.