SoftBank Corp. has unveiled plans to set up a joint venture with China’s Alibaba Group and Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology to help push the Japanese firm’s human-like “Pepper” robots.
Alibaba and Foxconn, which is making the robots, will each invest about US$118 million for 20 percent stakes in the venture, while SoftBank will hold the remaining 60 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Softbank, which is a major shareholder in Alibaba, will start selling Pepper in Japan on June 20, pitching it as a companion for the elderly, a teacher for school children and as a shop and office assistant.
“Pepper is finally coming to your home as a new member of the family,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son was quoted as saying at a news conference in suburban Tokyo on Thursday.
The 121-centimeter tall, white plastic robot was designed by Aldebaran Robotics, a French subsidiary of SoftBank.
It can recognize human voices and read facial expressions and body language, as well as being able to carry on basic conversations.
“I think no matter you like it or you don’t, robots are going to be as popular as cars, as machines, as airplanes,” said Alibaba chairman Jack Ma, who accompanied Son at the Thursday event along with Foxconn chairman Terry Gou.
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