Softbank develops robots to staff its cellphone stores

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Japan’s SoftBank was developing human-like robots which the company would use to staff its cellphone stores, two people with knowledge of the matter said, in a move aimed at expanding the cellular and internet conglomerate’s technological reach.

SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son was expected to announce the plan yesterday.

The people said it would use technologies developed by French robotics company Aldebaran, in which it took a stake in 2012.

The Nikkei business daily said production of the robots would be outsourced to Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry. SoftBank and Hon Hai declined to comment.

The sources said it was not clear when the robots would be ready, but the Nikkei said Softbank would put robots in some of its stores this northern summer and eventually develop a household robot that could provide nursing care for the elderly.

Japan’s total robotics market was worth about ¥860 billion (R90 billion) in 2012 and is forecast to more than triple in value to ¥2.85 trillion by 2020, according to a Trade Ministry report published last year.

A draft government growth strategy obtained by Reuters calls for a “robotic revolution” that would increase the use of robots in agriculture 20-fold and double manufacturing use.

A number of Japanese technology manufacturers are targeting robotics for growth. – Reuters

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