SoftBank Group is scaling back its global robotics business and will stop producing its humanoid Pepper robots.
According to a report by Reuters, the conglomerate is downgrading its industry ambition with production of Pepper halted last year and the decision taken that it would be too costly to restart production.
Manufactured by Foxconn in China, Pepper was designed to help plug labour shortages but struggled to find a global customer base. Only 27,000 were produced, one of the sources said.
The pullback reflects the fading of chief executive Masayoshi Son’s plan to make SoftBank the leader in the robotics industry, producing human-like machines that could serve customers and provide child care.
As part of the retrenchment, SoftBank plans to eliminate about half of its 330 staff positions in France in September, according documents seen by Reuters, sources said this decision cuts into the historical heart of the business, whose origins lie in SoftBank’s 2012 acquisition of French robotics firm Aldebaran.
Redundancies have already been made from smaller sales operations in the U.S and UK. Employees in Japan have redeployed from the robotics business, according to sources who declined to be named.
As previously reported by Robotics & Innovation, SoftBank retains 20% of a stake in Boston Dynamics but sold the remaining 80% to Hyundai Motor Group.
Furthermore, the company retains exposure to automation technology owning SB Logistics and with stakes in robotics firm Berkshire Grey and warehouse robotics firm AutoStore.