Pepper was, according to SoftBank, its makers, the “first social humanoid robot.” It was the first to recognize human faces and human emotions. It was “optimized for human interaction,” and known for its cuteness.
Just last winter, SoftBank added telepresence to Pepper’s skills, allowing healthcare workers to help people virtually during the pandemic.
Pepper Concierge welcomed guests in the hospitality sector, where human labor shortages are still grabbing headlines. PepperEvents was ready for virtual and hybrid events, and helped to keep down human contact during the pandemic. PepperMed was designed for the burgeoning eldercare industry.
And yet SoftBanks is retiring Pepper. according to SlashGear. Production has been halted. Word is that half the workers in France will be laid off, and cuts have already been made in the US and the UK.
Insiders point to culture clashes in the multinational workforce, but also to unreliability and limited functionality in the robot itself.
SoftBank has also recently sold out its shares in Boston Dynamics, which was sold to Hyundai this year.
What does this mean for robotics?
Recent research shows that Pepper can exert peer pressure on people and make them gamble more recklessly than the would on their own. If a robot with that much skills in human interaction can’t sell enough units to keep itself in business, what does that say about the category of social robots?
Industrial robots are another matter. If your industrial robots use Rexroth motion control, we can keep them in good shape for you. Contact us for any Rexroth service and support needs.