June 8, 2014

Did you hear?

A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile.


Do you need a hug? Pepper is here

A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can decipher emotions has been unveiled in Japan by billionaire Masayoshi Son who says robots should be tender and make people smile.

Son’s mobile phone company Softbank said Thursday that the robot it has dubbed Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for 198,000 yen ($1,900). Overseas sales plans are under consideration but undecided.

The machine, which has no legs, but has gently gesticulating hands appeared on a stage in a Tokyo suburb, cooing and humming. It dramatically touched hands with Son in a Genesis or “E.T.” moment and sang, “I want to be loved.” It can also dance and tell jokes.

Son, who told the crowd that his longtime dream was to go into the personal robot business, said Pepper has been programmed to read the emotions of people around it by recognizing expressions and voice tones.

Personal finance

Where is your money going?

Kids and cars are soaking up more family money than they used to.

A survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average income for families of all sorts decreased from 2012 to 2013 by $103 to $65,069 before taxes, but their expenses went up by $777 a year to $51,408.

The biggest share of the increased expenses of the average American household went to transportation, which cost a total of $8,999 a year, or $494 more than the previous year, as a result of purchase prices going up.

American families also spent more on a category called “cash contributions,” which includes alimony, child support, sending money to college students who are away from home, and charitable contributions. That took an additional $120 a year, bringing the average contributions up to $1,949 a year.


Rap Genius in the spotlight

Ever wanted to figure out what Kanye West is upset about or find like-minded people to talk about the deeper meaning of Coldplay lyrics? The website Rap Genius (at has grown popular as a place for the company’s staff and users to annotate song lyrics, providing links, videos and detailed context.

But the website, which has expanded to poetry, public speeches, news and other kinds of writing to annotate, has not been without controversy. In December, the company tangled with Google over techniques it used to beef up its Web search rankings. Last week, the company fired its co-founder Mahbod Moghadam, who annotated Isla Vista, Calif., mass killer Elliott Rodger’s online manifesto with inappropriate commentary.


Flying into the sunset?

Boeing’s iconic 747 jumbo jet is gliding deeper into its twilight years, with a new Air Force One fleet offering the strongest sales prospect for a passenger model that no longer fits most airlines’ needs.

Even as Boeing talks with Emirates about an order for the upgraded 747-8, the carrier played down the chances of a deal because it’s buying 150 Boeing 777X jets. That plane will be bigger and more efficient than the current 777, a twin-engine aircraft so capable that it’s cannibalizing Boeing’s jumbo sales.

Commercial success has proved elusive for the 747-8, the latest update to an almost 50-year-old plane known for its distinctive humpbacked fuselage. While the 747-8 is a lock to win bidding that opens this year to replace the president’s fleet, waning demand for the cargo variant further imperils an assembly line that has slowed to just 1.5 planes a month.

The Associated Press, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cox Newspapers and Bloomberg News contributed.

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