SoftBank to Launch App Store for its Pepper Robots This Month

SoftBank’s Pepper humanoid robots are already interacting with customers at shops and banks in Japan. Later this month, the robots will be introduced to more advanced functions after SoftBank opens a planned app store offering software that will help track customer’s behavior and improve communication with customers. The Pepper robots, which are designed to feature human-like body language and work in retail, have reportedly been selling out regularly since last year’s launch.

The app store will open February 22. More than 500 companies, including Nissan and Nestle, are already using the Pepper robot. These companies are the clients for the new app store. SoftBank did not disclose the number of apps that will be available.

Aldebaran_SoftBank_Pepper_Robot

Eventually, SoftBank hopes to create a community of developers to create apps for Pepper. “The challenge is to draw on artificial intelligence and machine-learning technologies to make Pepper useful beyond its initial novelty,” reports Bloomberg.

By the end of the month, Softbank also plans to deploy the Pepper robots in 2,000 of its own stores. The company says that it will open a store that is run entirely by Pepper robots in March. “This year will be year zero for smart robots in the business space,” said Ken Miyauchi, head of SoftBank’s mobile operations in Japan.

SoftBank makes about 1,000 of the $1,670 robots every month. They sell out every month, according to the company. Buyers have the option of purchasing a service plan, which comes with access to the voice recognition technology and the app store.

SoftBank announced early last year that Pepper, developed by French subsidiary Aldebaran Robotics, would be connected to SoftBank’s mobile network in Japan that has about 37 million subscribers.

Related:
SoftBank Plans To Open a Store Staffed (Almost) Entirely by Pepper, its Humanoid Robot, TechCrunch, 1/27/16