'Terminator' next? Japan's Softbank unveils robot with 'heart, emotions'

Japanese telecom company Softbank has unveiled a robot that it claims can 'read' human emotions.

Known as Pepper, the robot uses a cloud-based artificial intelligence system to interpret human voice tones, expressions and gestures.

Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son told a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday that for the first time in history, the company would be giving a robot heart, and emotions.

Pepper can dance to music, bow in respect, and move its arms in a convincing interpretation of human movement.

The robot is intended to go on sale to the public next year for 198,000, or a little over $1,900, in an effort to address the problems arising from Japan's rapidly ageing population.

The company believes the machines could act as carers for the elderly, helping companies to offset a decline in the labour force through the utilisation of robotics.

In the past, several different robotics companies have claimed to have created robots that read or mimic human emotions. In 2009, researchers in Japan created Kobain, a robot which could express seven human emotions, including delight, in which it raises its hands over its head and opens its eyes and mouth wide.

The following year, humanoid machine Nao was created by European scientists, and was designed to mimic he emotional skills of a one-year-old child and is capable of forming bonds with people who treat it with kindness.

Japan's overall robotics market was worth about 860 billion yen ($8.38 billion) in 2012 and is forecast to more than triple in value to 2.85 trillion yen by 2020, according to a trade ministry report last year.