A ROBOT bought by Southend Council to help with social care has had its outings cut by more than two thirds over the last year.

The £17,000 robot took up residence at the Civic Centre in 2017.

Child-sized robot Pepper stands 120cm tall, can speak 12 languages, communicate with patients, and understand emotions, according to its makers, Japanese company, Softbanks.

In 2017/18 Pepper had just 17 trips out into the community but the following year that grew to 62. However a freedom of information act request by the Echo show Pepper’s outings were down to 19 in the year to date.

The remarkable robot has the ability to recognise principal human emotions and adapt his own behaviour to make independent decisions.

It can play videos, music, and sensory games and has been used to help dementia sufferers and children with complex disabilities such as autism.

A condition imposed on Southend Council under the academic licenses for Pepper’s use states the robot would be used for education purposes, meeting children and young people and for enhanced social care. He has previously appeared at the Tech-on-Sea event and at national conferences.

Trevor Harp, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “Pepper is a very valued member of the council and since 2017 has been actively involved in the development of some exciting new projects incorporating Pepper’s expertise in robotics and AI work.

“This includes running dementia groups for the elderly, helping children with learning difficulties, running inter-generational projects, and being used to inspire schoolchildren to consider a career in robotics and this work continues.

“The council has been proud to lead this advance in robotics and be the first local authority to trial this technology. Whilst the number of ‘public appearances’ have reduced, this doesn’t mean Pepper is being used less. Pepper and the robotics team are involved in a number of innovative and exciting projects within the community that seek to improve lives for local people. We will shortly be revealing further details about this work.”