OFweekRobotNet News has 1,000 units per month, and it was robbed in less than a minute. Ma Yun, Sun Zhengyi, Guo Taiming, and the three richest people are their platforms. The former Pepper can be said to be a well-deserved pride of heaven.
However, according to the Nikkei News, SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corp (SBRH), which develops and sells Pepper under Japan’s SoftBank Group, has fallen into insolvency at the end of March 2017. What happened to Pepper, who just celebrated his third birthday?
Pepper too cheap? SoftBank subsidiary insolvent
According to the securities report submitted by SoftBank Group to the Kanto Finance Bureau, as of the fiscal year in March, the liabilities of SoftBank Robotics, which is responsible for R&D and sales, exceeded its assets by 31.4 billion yen, or about 274 million U.S. dollars.
Although no results were announced, according to Tokyo Shoko Research, the company’s operating income in fiscal 2015 was 2.2 billion yen, with a net loss of 11.7 billion yen, a loss higher than the 2.3 billion yen in fiscal 2014. Yuan.
Tokyo Shoko Research said that although SoftBank Robotics did not release performance figures, its revenue in fiscal 2015 was 2.2 billion yen, and its net loss was 11.7 billion yen, which was obviously higher than the 2.3 billion yen in fiscal 2014. Losses are even worse.
For why it lost money, the Japanese media blamed Pepper’s price too cheap. Pepper’s host price is 198,000 yen (about 11,800 yuan), which is a lower price as a humanoid Robot and has a low profit margin. Two consecutive fiscal years of losses as sales struggled to offset the burden of research and development expenses.
However, this has not stopped SoftBank’s ambitions in the field of artificial intelligence. The company announced last month that it had signed an agreement to acquire Boston Dynamics, the Robot maker owned by Google parent Alphabet. As part of the deal, SoftBank will also acquire Japanese bipedal robotics company Schaft from Alphabet.
This seems to solve the problem of Pepper’s bad legs. You must know that Pepper’s hand joints are flexible and can make many movements, but the lower body is very different. The climbing ability does not exceed 1.5 cm, and the moving speed is 2 kilometers per hour.
Born with the golden key in his mouth, backed by the three giants
In early 2012, SoftBank acquired French robotics company Aldebaran, and based on this, established the group’s robotics holding subsidiary SBRH.
Two years later, SoftBank showed off the humanoid robot Pepper. In the same year, Pepper started working as a free employee in an electrical appliance store in Japan.
In June 2015, Alibaba announced that it would inject 14.5 billion yen (about 118 million US dollars, or 800 million yuan) into SoftBank Robotics Holdings, a subsidiary of SoftBank, in exchange for a 20% stake. Similarly, Guo Taiming also took 14.5 billion yen from Foxconn to invest in SBRH. The two companies together accounted for 40% of SBRH’s equity, and the remaining 60% belonged to Softbank.
On the same day, Ma Yun and Guo Taiming were present in person and stood on the platform for Pepper together with Sun Zhengyi.
Pepper, a 1.2-meter-tall humanoid robot with eyes as big as a cartoon character, can interact with people in natural language. SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son called it “the first robot that can recognize human emotions”, which once triggered a sales boom in the Japanese market.
From June 2015, SBRH began to sell a limited number of 1,000 Peppers per month. By the end of the year, the 1,000 Peppers sold through Softbank’s official website every month were sold out within 1 minute after the sale. In October of the same year, Pepper Enterprise Edition began to accept reservations, and signed a 3-year contract in the form of leasing with companies interested in hiring Pepper: 3 years, $16,000 (about 108,000 yuan).
According to data disclosed by SoftBank, more than 10,000 Pepper robots have started to work around the world, including Pizza Huts in Singapore, cruise ships and Japanese homes.
Pepper’s trapped, will only sell cute and not small
In fact, as early as 1999, Sony had launched a family companion robot dog AIBO with a concept no worse than Pepper. This robot dog was once very popular in Japan. However, the expensive price of thousands of dollars In the end, it became a concept product that was well-received.
Seven years later, Sony had to stop the development and maintenance of this series of robot dogs. In the end, AIBO only sold 150,000 units worldwide, and the revenue could not even cover its high R&D costs.
It’s not hard to see that most people don’t seem to be very interested in a robot that only acts cute and chats up.
As a humanoid robot, Pepper can only recognize human voices and facial expressions through a voice recognition system, and use expressions, actions, and voices to communicate and feedback with humans, which means that it has no other selling point except for dialogue and dancing.
It is worth mentioning that natural language interaction and emotional judgment close to human level are still a major problem for artificial intelligence, which makes Pepper’s dialogue function just a fancy and difficult to solve practical problems. When the novelty of Pepper wears off, it’s more of a big toy than a smart tool.
In addition, for the public, the size of Pepper is also an important factor that makes people lack the desire to buy. Although this 1.2-meter-tall robot occupies a small area, it takes up a lot of space.
In the commercial service market, service robots ushered in a wave of climax after the advent of Pepper. Use a search engine to search for “service robots” and you can get more than a thousand models.
Among them, the most popular are restaurant service robots and front desk robots, many of which are very similar to Pepper’s design. They are all humanoid robots holding a screen, and they are much cheaper than Pepper in price.
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