Softbank forms robot venture with Alibaba and Foxconn

SoftBank forms robot venture with Alibaba and Foxconn

18 JUN 2015

Japanese mobile operator SoftBank is teaming up with China e-commerce giant Alibaba and contract manufacturer Foxconn to set up a robot venture to sell its human-like robot globally.

Reuters reported that SoftBank, Japan’s third largest mobile player, would have a 60 per cent stake in the venture, while Alibaba and Foxconn would each have a 20 per cent interest.

SoftBank claims that the robot, named ‘Pepper’, is the world’s first personal robot that can read emotions. The company first announced the robot a year ago and said it would be commercially available in Japan in February. It is priced at JPY198,000 ($1,600) but also is available on a 36-month installment plan.

SoftBank uses the robots in some of its retail shops in Japan.

The company said in a statement Pepper’s emotion functions were developed by cocoro SB Corp, which enable the robot to artificially generate its own emotions. In addition to its emotion recognition functions, Pepper can generate emotions autonomously by processing information from its cameras, touch sensors, accelerometer and other sensors within its “endocrine-type multi-layer neural network”.

With this emotion function, Pepper’s emotions are influenced by people’s facial expressions and words, as well as his surroundings, which in turn affects Pepper’s words and actions, the company said.

SoftBank also announced today that 1,000 units of the robot will go on sale on Saturday. It will also hold a special draw tomorrow to give away 30 units at SoftBank Tokyo Station GranRoof Front. Additional shipments of the robot will be available in July.

It said about 200 robot apps are available for download from its app store in addition to the pre-installed basic apps.

SoftBank plans to launch a model designed for enterprises, ‘Pepper for Biz’, in the autumn, with details to be announced at SoftBank World in July.


Joseph Waring

Joseph Waring joins Mobile World Live as the Asia editor for its new Asia channel. Before joining the GSMA, Joseph was group editor for Telecom Asia for more than ten years. In addition to writing features, news and blogs, he...

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