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Technology

SoftBank stops making Pepper robot but says it isn't dead

$2,000 Foxconn-built humanoid serves as a face of the group

Pepper and SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son: The robot has served as a face for SoftBank's push into AI. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group's robotics unit has halted production of the Pepper humanoid robot, owing to weak demand.

The artificial-intelligence-equipped robot was marketed to stores and other customer-facing jobs in such markets as Japan, China, Europe and the U.S. But production was stopped last summer as inventories piled up, Nikkei has learned.

Taiwan's Hon Hai Precision Industry, or Foxconn, has manufactured the robots. Pepper went on sale in Japan in 2015 and is currently leased to corporate clients. Consumers have been able to buy one for 217,800 yen ($1,970).

"We plan to resume production if demand recovers," a SoftBank Robotics Group official said, denying that the plug has been pulled on Pepper.

The Tokyo-based robotics unit, which has development and sales sites around the world, seeks to cut its workforce in France. While the scale and timing of the personnel adjustment has not been finalized, the company says it will continue to focus on the robot business.

In Japan, SoftBank Robotics established a joint venture with electronics maker Iris Ohyama in February to develop and sell robots for serving food and other commercial applications, with a target to log cumulative sales of 100 billion yen by 2025.

Reuters earlier reported on SoftBank's plans, including for Pepper production.

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