Taipei, Dec. 26 (CNA) A new batch of 1,000 "Pepper" robots jointly developed by Japanese telecom giant SoftBank Corp. and Taiwanese contract manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. (鴻海) sold out in just one minute after going on sale in Japan Saturday.
It was the seventh consecutive month in which the Pepper robots sold out in a blink of an eye after the device went on sale in the Japanese market June 20.
Pepper, created to function as a "social companion for humans," is touted by SoftBank as not only being able to read human emotions, but also to respond to emotional signifiers, such as laughing or frowning.
Softbank has upgraded the Pepper robot, and the new version is able to memorize and store data on human responses by using cloud technology-based artificial intelligence applications developed by the company's subsidiary, Cocoro SB.
In the Japan market, the Pepper robot carries a price tag of 198,000 Japanese yen (US$1,646) and the seventh round of sales were conducted online. Softbank put the product up for sale at 10 a.m. on sale day and it sold out in one minute.
The next online sale is scheduled for Jan. 28, Softbank said.
Amazed by the warm response the Pepper robot has enjoyed in the Japanese market, Asia Pacific Telecom Co. (亞太電信), one of Taiwan's telecom services providers, said that it is planning to introduce the robot into the Taiwan market.
Asia Pacific, which is a subsidiary of Hon Hai, has placed a Pepper Robot in its outlet located in Syntrend Creative Park of Taipei as a super salesperson to attract customers' attention for the telecom services provider.
The telecom operator said that a timetable for the introduction of the Pepper robot has not been fixed yet, but said that it is working hard to make it next year.
Hon Hai, through its subsidiary, is rolling out Pepper robots on production lines located in its factory in Yantai, in China's Shandong Province. According to the media, Hon Hai started to produce Pepper robots in February, churning out five per hour initially. Currently, the number has risen to 10 since Hon Hai has intensified its efforts to improve efficiency and raise production to 15 per hour.
To expand its robot-manufacturing operations, Hon Hai is looking for opportunities to acquire robot production firms in the United States. It has sent a team of about 30 members to survey the U.S. market, paving the way for future acquisitions.
(By Jalen Chung and Frances Huang)