SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son, on September 15, mentioned that smart robots could help revitalize Japan’s economy and also contribute to increasing the nation’s competitiveness. Essentially, Son is putting emphasis on robotics. It is interesting to note that SoftBank had actually stopped the production of Pepper, the robot, in 2020, and some reports claim that the company manufactured a total of 27000 Pepper robots since its inception in 2014. There were also rumors that SoftBank was not interested in restarting the same production since it would prove too costly.
However, at the SoftBank World 2021 conference streamed online, the company mentioned that the firm’s Vision Fund is involved with 18 other companies developing machines integrated with AI.
This means that SoftBank is looking to expand its horizon far beyond the production of Pepper which had very limited capabilities, including dancing function and door-greeting capabilities. “We had a grandiose debut event with Pepper several years ago, now it is hanging its head low,” Son said, standing in front of a projection of a slumping, switched-off Pepper. He went on, “smart robots that will replace not just the manufacturing, industrial working population, but the entire working population.”
Son, then introduced a few humanoid robots along with machines cleaning floors shaped like canisters. Although he did not go into the details, he did mention that SoftBank will continue collaborating with Boston Dynamics and that Pepper will be a starting point for its upcoming functional smart robots. Son mentioned that after the production of the “smabo” (a coinage of “smart” and “robot” in Japanese) actualizes, 100 million robots could do the work of 1 billion people. “Humans can be liberated from boring work,” he said. “(They) can work on something that has more added value.”