The China Post, in an article about the pace of sales for the SoftBank Pepper robot said that Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision (AKA Foxconn) had sent a team of 30 to survey the US market for future acquisitions of robot production firms.
Another 1,000 of the $1,600 Pepper robots sold in Japan on December 27th in just one minute online – 7,000 in the last 7 months. The next sale date is January 28th. Foxconn is currently producing 10 Pepper robots per hour at factories in Yantai, Shandong Province, China and is working to improve efficiency and raise production to 15 per hour.
The Pepper app store for add-on applications offers a range of more than 200 free and pay-for apps. These apps range from quiz games, English picture books, hairstyle and clothing chat games, timers, dance instruction, lie detection, brain games, exercise trainers, animal sounds, food apps like beef bowl and noodle shop locators, piano playing, baseball talking, English for kids and many more.
Pepper, created initially by France-based Aldebaran to act as a “social companion for humans,” is advertised by SoftBank as not only being able to read human emotions, but also to respond to emotional cues such as laughing or frowning.
Softbank recently upgraded Pepper to be able to memorize and store data on human responses by using cloud-based artificial intelligence applications developed by the company’s subsidiary, Cocoro SB.
The newsworthy part of The China Post story was Hon Hai Precision’s 30-person trip to the U.S. to explore purchasing companies that can help Foxconn increase Pepper production of this very complex robot. Once sales expand from Japan to China and then the rest of the world, production will need to keep pace, hence the concern and exploratory shopping trip. The joint venture between Alibaba, Foxconn and SoftBank has provided hundreds of millions of dollars for production ramp-up costs which are likely to include money for capital expenditures such as robots and other automation devices – and acquisitions of companies that make those devices.