SoftBank’s robotics projections with Pepper fail after the wide-eyed Android robot loses steam. Pepper made an overly optimistic appearance in the year 2014 and now after 7 years is clinging on to life. Production is closed and units cobbled together with outdated components.
According to Softbank management, in an internal meeting in Paris, sales of the new Pepper unit will end in 2023 as the parts become obsolete. While the refurbished units will continue after this point
Kazutaka Hasumi, chief marketing officer of SoftBank Robotics, is confident about Pepper’s survival and said the company is committed to ensuring Pepper survives in some form, perhaps with a new design.
Pepper is a humanoid designed for SoftBank by Aldebaran, a French robotics company startup it acquired in 2012. Pepper was considered to transform robots from a factory tool into an everyday companion identical to computers that had moved from offices into homes and pockets.
Pepper is capable of making basic conversation, engaging in simple interactions via a chest-mounted tablet, and singing while gesturing. Though it would frequently break down and could do very little that you can do with an iPad.
Pepper could be owned at 198,000 yen ($1,800) plus a 14,800 yen monthly fee. The huge price tag meant it was not possible for everyone to own in their households. Considering the high price tag Softbank targeted businesses.
The development of Pepper was affected due to poor relations between Tokyo and Paris. Initially, 27000 units were produced, which were deployed in SoftBank’s mobile stores. Sales have slumped to less than 100 units, with production stopped last year at a Foxconn factory in China due to poor sales.
Currently, there are around 2000 Pepper units left, batteries are decaying and the chest-mounted tablets are running on outdated Android operating systems without the latest security updates.
SoftBank Robotic Future Plans
Two years ago SoftBank launched Whiz, an automated vacuum cleaner. Whiz is a cleaning robot, demand for the robot has increased during the pandemic. According to Kenichi Yoshida, a chief business officer at SoftBank Robotics, there were orders for 8,000 units in the April-June quarter.
The company was also successful in breaking up Japan’s telecoms duopoly and securing $60 billion in Middle Eastern oil money for his Vision Fund.
Other robot products on SoftBank list are ramen-making robots. The food service robot called Servi developed by California-based Bear Robotics can carry food to diners.