Sony Wants 'Emotional Robot' to Form Bonds With Humans

sony emotional robot ex machina
Alicia Vikander as an android with artificial intelligence in 2015 movie "Ex-Machina." AI experts have said robots should be developed with emotions in order to negate the potential existential threat they may pose. Ex Machina/ A24

Sony is planning to re-enter the robot business with machines capable of forming emotional bonds with humans, the company's CEO has said.

Speaking at a shareholders meeting in Tokyo this week, Sony chief Kazuo Hirai said the robot will be "capable of forming an emotional bond with customers," according to Japanese news agency Jiji Press.

"The robots we are developing can have emotional bonds with customers, giving them joy and becoming the objects of love," Hirai said.

Sony is not the first company to attempt an "emotional robot," with fellow Japanese multinational SoftBank touting its popular Pepper robot as capable of reading emotions.

The humanoid Pepper is seen as the first step towards household robots that provide both utility and companionship. According to its creators, Pepper has a higher emotional intelligence than a toddler, thanks to facial recognition technology that allows it to calculate whether a person is happy or sad.

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts have previously warned that advanced AI systems, such as those found in robots, should be capable of empathy and other emotions in order to quell the existential threat that the nascent technology poses.

Sony's announcement comes ten years after Sony's last robotics venture—the Aibo robot series—was abandoned due to poor earnings at the company.

The Aibo robotic dog, which sold for between $500 and $2,500, proved popular in Japan, with some owners going as far as to hold funerals for their robotic pets when they stopped working.

Hirai did not give specific details about Sony's latest robot plans, instead highlighting other areas of future growth for the technology giant.

Virtual reality is seen by Hirai as one key business opportunity, with the Playstation VR system set to launch later this year.