SoftBank is restructuring its robotics business and has halted production of its Pepper robot as the group scaled back its industrial ambitions. According to Reuters.
Robots are just one of the many businesses the large Japanese company has invested in. But Pepper production will likely end permanently.
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Production of the robot was discontinued last year. It is expensive to reproduce it. Pepper was built by Foxconn in China and was supposed to help fill a labor shortage. But he struggled to find a global client base. Only 27,000 were produced.
The decline reflects the fading of Chief Executive Masayoshi Son’s plan to make SoftBank a leader in the robotics industry, producing human-like machines that can serve customers and babysit.
As part of cost-cutting, SoftBank plans to lay off about half of its 330 employees in France in September.
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France is the home of SoftBank’s robotics efforts after its 2012 acquisition of French robotics company Aldebaran.
Half of the employees were cut out of the smaller sales in the US and Britain, with employees redistributed in Japan from the robotics business.
A SoftBank spokesman said negotiations in France over layoffs were continuing and final figures had not been set. He confirmed layoffs in the United States and the United Kingdom and the redistribution of Japan’s staff.
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SoftBank is restructuring its robotics business
The French robotics company said in a statement that SoftBank continues to make significant investments in the next generation of robots to serve our customers and partners.
Soft launched Pepper Bank in 2014 and became the face of the conglomerate, embodying Son’s optimistic vision for a technology-assisted future as it built its investment operations overseas.
Cultural differences between the French company and the Tokyo administration over the robot’s development have hurt its sales and affected its limited functionality and unreliability.
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SoftBank, which boosted Pepper sales by placing the robot in its mobile stores, has shifted its focus to products such as the Whiz cleaning robot. French businesses were increasingly marginalized.
The group has been selling assets, including a majority stake in robotics company Boston Dynamics, as Son is more focused on investing through the Vision Fund.
The 63-year-old billionaire describes SoftBank as a provider of capital to the information revolution. The company retains some robotics and automation technology, owns SB Logistics and has stakes in robotics companies Berkshire Gray and AutoStore.