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SoftBank gives robot maid apps in bid for home users

Telecom group targets families with babysitting, remote functions


TOKYO -- Pepper, SoftBank Group's humanoid robot, will receive seven new home-oriented apps -- such as for watching over family members and operating appliances -- aimed at attracting price-wary individuals.

The Japanese information technology and telecom company announced the new apps Tuesday, and will offer them for free to Pepper users starting on Wednesday.

One app lets Pepper interface with infrared light-based remote controls to turn appliances on and off -- including TVs, air conditioners and lights -- when prompted by a voice command. Another lets users see the view from Pepper's camera via their smartphone, useful for when the robot is left at home with young children or the elderly. A third app lets Pepper observe users' facial expressions and tone of voice, evaluate how they are feeling, and suggest exercises accordingly.  

SoftBank has not released sales figures for the robot, but they are estimated at around 20,000 units since its 2015 launch. Pepper has sold well with businesses such as banks and retailers, and is now used at close to 2,000 companies.

But sales to individuals are sluggish, perhaps due to Pepper's price -- over 1 million yen ($8,912) for three years, including insurance and a monthly base fee. Hence the company's move to attract family buyers with home-use apps.

SoftBank also announced it will sell Pepper paired with Kawasaki Heavy Industries' two-armed duAro worker robot to factories and other workplaces. Workers could instruct Pepper to remotely check on duAro's condition or give it orders.


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