Softbank’s Pepper robot is now available to businesses in Taiwan, the company announced. Taiwan joins Japan as the only two countries where Pepper is sold.
Softbank said that about 100 Pepper robots will make appearances in banks and Carrefour SA shops in Taiwan later in 2016 to interact with customers. According to Reuters, the goal is to “rent out 60 robots a month by sometime in the first half of 2017.”
Sales in Taiwan will be handled by a Foxconn subsidiary named Perobot. Foxconn and Alibaba made a major investment in Softbank back in June 2015. Perobot said Pepper will be available as a two-year lease for $836.67 per month.
Pepper, of course, is a major part of Softbank’s future that will focus on the Internet of Things. Softbank recently acquired ARM Holdings for $32 billion. ARM Holdings designs the microprocessors that power more than 95 percent of the world’s smartphones.
US Launch of Pepper Robot Imminent?
Perhaps the launch in Taiwan is an indication that Pepper’s launch in the United States is imminent. Softbank recently said Pepper will launch in the United States in 2016, but no specific launch date was set. A developer version of Pepper was supposed to launch in the US in July 2016, but that has yet to happen.
When Pepper does launch in the US, the initial focus will also be on the commercial market. Softbank recently pointed out that Pepper is already being used by more than 700 businesses. Pepper is probably best known for selling iPhones at Softbank mobile stores in Tokyo. Pepper has also worked at Pizza Hut, on cruise ships, at a Tokyo half-way house mentoring ex-cons, and at schools in Singapore.
You might also see Pepper working at hotels. The Nao robot, also made by Softbank, was tested as a concierge at the Hilton McLean in Virginia. The Nao robot, called Connie, answered questions from guests about nearby restaurants, tourist attractions and more. However, Carlin told The Robotics Trends Show that ultimately Pepper will replace Nao as the robot concierge of choice.
Pepper stands just under 4 feet tall and has three omni-directional wheels. Pepper also has a 3D camera to detect passengers movements along with a 10 inch touch screen. Pepper has a tablet in its chest that can be used for engagement and communication, but it can also communicate via speech.
Pepper became available to Japanese consumers in June 2015. Since then, 1,000 units of the robot have gone on sale every month, each time selling out in a matter of seconds.