Softbank Pauses Production Of Pepper Robot – Report

The Japanese telecommunications and Internet business, SoftBank, has confirmed it has ‘paused’ production of its ‘emotional’ robot nicknamed ‘Pepper.’

Speaking to the BBC, SoftBank confirmed that production had been “paused for a while”, amid question marks over the commercial sales success of the robot.

The firm told the BBC it would only start manufacturing the robot again “when it is needed.” The moves comes as Reuters reported that Softbank is also cutting jobs at its global robotics operation in France.

Pepper robot

Pepper was launched back in 2014 and went on sale in limited markets.

In June 2015 the robot went on sale in the United States, costing $1,790.

In addition to the upfront purchase cost, Softbank also offered a service plan costing £75 per month. This gave users access to cloud-based voice-recognition and an app store.

Right from the start Softbank touted the emotional side of the robot, which is 4 foot high and weights 28 kilograms.

It comes with Wi-Fi connectivity, and it can dance and make human-like movements and body language thanks to more than 20 different motors and highly articulated arms.

The machine was touted as one of the first genuinely interactive robots, able to take in the surroundings into consideration before reacting pro-actively using proprietary algorithms.

It could make jokes and estimate human emotions based on expressions and voice tones, including fear and excitement. It could also adjust its interaction based on these inputs.

Family companion

Other features included a 12 hour battery life and laser sensors (to allow it to judge situations rather than for ‘extermination’ purposes).

It also came with an open operating system, and the Aldebaran software development kit (SDK) that allowed developers to customise the robot for possible uses in the construction, health care and entertainment industries.

Pepper was initially marketed at families and the elderly (as a home companion etc), but its makers believed there were also businesses opportunities for the robot.

In the end however, Reuters reported that only 27,000 units were ever made.

Softbank was also reportedly selling the robot below cost and had hoped to make money on the after-sale side.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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