A Paris studio showing emotion reading robots opened on Wednesday. The robots were designed to be cute to help humans develop an emotional connection with the objects. (Reuters)

A cooing, gesturing humanoid on wheels that can read emotions has been unveiled in Japan by a billionaire who says robots should make people smile.

Masayoshi Son’s mobile phone company, SoftBank, said last week that the robot it calls Pepper will go on sale in Japan in February for $1,900. The company hasn’t decided whether to sell it elsewhere.

The machine, which has no legs but has gently moving hands, appeared onstage near Tokyo. It touched hands with Son.

Son said Pepper has been programmed to read the emotions of people around it by recognizing expressions and voice tones.

“Our aim is to develop affectionate robots that can make people smile,” he said.

Cuddly robots are not new in Japan, but no companion robot has been a major market success.

The 48-inch-tall, 62-pound Pepper is loaded with more than a dozen sensors. It also has two cameras, four microphones and WiFi and Ethernet networking.

Besides reading emotions, Pepper can dance and tell jokes.

Associated Press