Pepper App and Innovation Challenge
Briefed on September 18th 2015, Developers had just until October 31st to submit their applications to the challenges. Hard work, imaginative leaps and many hours of obsessive hacking followed.
In the first contest, the Pepper App Challenge, was designed for the consumer market. Since June 2015, many Japanese families have been living with Pepper in their homes. The challenge here for the developers was to imagine and develop applications that would perfectly serve family life with Pepper.
The second contest, the Pepper Innovation Challenge, focused on business applications for Pepper. Around the world, Pepper has already been deployed into many businesses - Nestlé, SNCF, Carrrefour, Loft and Mizuho Bank have all chosen to integrate Pepper into their core business strategy. However there are many new uses cases to imagine in many different fields and it was this opportunity that drove the Innovation Challenge.
During this time, Softbank and the Atelier Akihabara (a permanently situated workshop in Tokyo for people to play and discover Pepper) organized different events related to the Challenges to support and encourage the development process.
Hackathons and Ideathons were held at the Atelier to imagine new application ideas and concepts. An “Oversized Hackathon” was even organized in partnerships with Mashup Awards, gathering more than 60 developers during two days. Technical Q&A meetings as well as free sessions were also planned to follow-up with the teams.
Remarkably, by November 28th, a total of 263 applications had been submitted, 180 in the Pepper App Challenge and 83 in the Innovation Challenge.
10 projects were selected by Softbank, in each category, to participate in the finals. As a result, a total of 20 teams showcased their work to people in the Belle Salle Event Hall at the end of November.
Teams had the opportunity to demonstrate, explain and answer questions on their projects in front of the jury.
The Best App Winner was the HUG Project team. Combining robotics and virtual reality, they turned Pepper into a robotic avatar to allow users to experience events they were not able to be a part of. In their demonstration video a bedridden grandmother was able to attend her grandson’s wedding through Pepper’s eyes and physical presence. The award came with a one million yen prize (7,500€) and future help from Softbank to develop the application further. The team also won the Best Care Award.
Best Interaction Award was attributed to G-Angle team and their application “Virtual English Environment”. To enhance English-speaking skills, Pepper was programmed to gradually speak in English at various time of the day. The idea was to provide a “non-formal” learning frame and help practice English via small talk at home. This award as well as the others were awarded a 100,000 ¥ prize (750€).
The Best Entertainment prize was awarded to Uber-Inovations@ App Frontier team. Their application, named “Kataribe”, turned Pepper into the perfect storyteller. Pepper can then read out stories - combined with background music, gestures, images and text on his tablet. The application also allows its user to imagine and customize his own story.
The Best Lifestyle Award was won by BOB team who developed “Pepper Personal Trainer”. Combining the robot with their Fitbit device, the turned Pepper into a personal fitness coach who monitors the user activity, motivates them and helps them to carry out their daily training.
On the Pepper Innovation Challenge side, five awards were also distributed.
The Best App Award was attributed to Team Smart Brain. They developed a “brain gymnastics” application for the elderly. Leading different mental exercises and games, Pepper is also able stimulate seniors’ minds and using a recognition application, the robot can also track their progress and adapt exercises.
The Best Business Hospitality prize was awarded to Air Wait with their adapted queue management solution for Pepper. Displaying the information on his tablet, Pepper can inform people in a waiting line of their wait time, can print them a coupon and even notifies them when their number is called.
The Best Healthcare Award was won by Joysound Team who created a care facilities application. Pepper took the role of a easy level gymnast coach for seniors, providing exercises and entertainment - like karaoke sing-a-longs.
The Best Customer Experience was awarded to Fubright Communication. The team turned Pepper into a phone allowing visitors to reach out with their appointments and inform them of their arrival.
Finally, the Best Technology prize was awarded to the Eviry team for their brilliant Vipper digital store application. Using a combination of different APIs, the App aims to use Pepper to analyze people's reactions to different videos. This allows the App to choose and prioritize the next viewing videos, according to previous reactions.
In its second incarnation, The Pepper Challenge was a real success (if we say so ourselves). Developers in Japan have been showing incredible interest in Pepper and application creation in the last two years. It was also gratifying to see a shift from tablet-centric applications to more “complete” applications, fully exploiting the potential of the robot.