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Japan's In-Home Robot Experiment Short Circuits


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Tokyos governor Yuriko Koike meeting SoftBanks Pepper robot at an event last year.

Japans humanoid robots are struggling to find homes.

Credit: philip fong/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A lack of demand prompted SoftBank Robotics Group Corp. to cease manufacturing Pepper, a child-sized humanoid robot that can recognize human faces and emotions and engage in basic conversation, last fall, the company said this week.

The Japanese company which rolled out the nearly-$2,000 robot in 2015, expected the robot to become a mass-market household technology akin to smartphones, but most units were rental models used in the company's mobile phone stores and hospitals, schools, and restaurants.

A spokeswoman said production was put on hold due to sufficient inventory levels.

The announcement underscores the lack of commercial success for humanoid robots in Japan.

Tokyo Institute of Technology's Shigeo Hirose said, "A human worker that can be hired for 1,000 to 2,000 yen [$9-$18] an hour can do the work far more easily than robots, so business owners don't think they need to introduce robots now."

From The Wall Street Journal
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