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(Pocket-lint) - A robot that reads emotions could be a scary prospect, but Pepper is here to help. The heart-felt bot was unveiled in Japan as an alternative to human care workers.

Pepper was developed by Japanese firm Softbank using an "emotional engine" and cloud-based artificial intelligence system that can analyse gestures, expressions and voice tones.

While the firm claims people can communicate with Pepper "just like they would with friends and family", we're going to reserve excitement for now. The robot will go on sale to the public next year for 198,000 yen which is about £1,150.

From tomorrow Softbank will have two Pepper robots at its stores allowing the public to interact with them. The plan is to roll these bots out at stores nationwide. Presumably the emotional engine and cloud-based AI will be able to learn and improve as more people interact with them.

Pepper and robots like it should be able to help with the ageing population that requires more care as it continues to grow. The robot is also expected to be an alternative to human employees for companies wishing to save money on staff.

Bruno Maisonnier, founder and chief executive of Alderbaran said: "The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology. It's just the beginning, but already a promising reality."

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Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 5 June 2014.