Nothing worse than kicking a robot when he’s down

Pepper, the $1,600 robotic greeter at a SoftBank store in Tokyo, can apparently ”read” emotions in people, including joy, surprise, anger, doubt and sadness.

You might want to add drunken rage to that list.

In the latest example of a human taking out its frustration on a robot, an inebriated 60-year-old named Kiichi Ishikawa was so fed up with a non-robotic clerk at the telecommunications and mobile-phone outlet that he kicked poor Pepper, according to the authorities. And he kicked him so hard that Pepper now moves slower, possibly from a broken internal computer, or possibly from a broken heart.

According to the Telegraph, “investigators told the Japan Times that security footage showed the drunken Ishikawa kicking the robot.”

So why would Pepper’s assailant do such a thing? A post on Slate said that local police “told the Times that Ishikawa had admitted to destruction of property after explaining that he was frustrated with a store clerk.”

Pepper, which has been on the market since June, is programmed to check out your facial expressions and body language and then use what he picks up to see what kind of mood you’re in. Pepper then tries to make you feel better, playing a song or telling a joke, says the Telegraph.

The humanoid was created specifically for SoftBank Mobile to greet and interact with customers in stores.

According to Aldebaran, the creators of the bot, Pepper can converse with you, recognize or react to your emotions, and move autonomously. It is unknown whether he reacted to being angrily kicked.

This latest outbreak of human-on-robot violence begs the question: Why can’t we all just get along?

An even more horrific case occurred last month and involved a child-sized hitchhiking robot named HitchBOT, programmed by its creators to roam the world with the help of strangers. HitchBOT was found beheaded, with his arms ripped clean off their sockets.

Another well-publicized incident featured a person kicking a canine-like robot, ostensibly to show viewers how expertly stabilized the robot was. Animal-rights activists were outraged by the attack on the not-even-real animal. And PETA pressured the Google-owned company that released a video of the attack, robotics-design firm Boston Dynamics, to issue a statement.

Photo: Pepper speaks and performs during the news conference on June 18, 2015 in Chiba, Japan. (Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)


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