According to Reuters, SoftBank’s robotics business is being restructured and it has halted production of its Pepper robot. Pepper is just one of several businesses invested in by the large Japanese firm, but its possible end is notable for its unofficial status as a company mascot along with robotics.
There will be 330 layoffs at SoftBank based in France, the birthplace of SoftBank’s robotics effort, and half the division’s sales team in the United Kingdom and the United States, according to Reuters.
The Pepper robot is no longer being produced by SoftBank
There has been a halt in Pepper robot production, according to Reuters’ sources, and restarting it would be costly. SoftBank has been reached to confirm the details of the report.
SoftBank’s sale of a controlling stake in Boston Dynamics to Hyundai was followed closely by the Reuters report. There certainly seems to be some rethinking taking place within the company regarding exactly what it wants to do with the robot business. The company is focusing on more practical business-type offerings at the moment, like the robot Whiz that cleans carpets.
Despite an assist from IBM’s Watson, Pepper wasn’t supposed to be able to understand human emotions, which was not possible at the time, and isn’t likely to become any truer.
This friendly bot then acted out various strange, if charming, scenarios, such as as a Buddhist priest, a docent at the Smithsonian, and a sales associate in one of SoftBank‘s stores.
The ads that used to advertise Pepper in Japan may not have been accurate, but the product is still very charming. Pepper is just a waist-high android in my experience, but after hearing so much about it online, seeing it in person was a big surprise.
A friendly smile and a wave greeted me in Japanese when I wandered into a SoftBank store in Tokyo. There are traditional robots on paper. However, how about right now? Even if Pepper had not sold me a prepaid phone plan, I would have considered it.