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Hon Hai to Supply Japan's Softbank "Pepper," the Humanoid Robot

Jun 10, 2014 | By CENS

Considerable dedication by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Ltd., world's largest EMS (electronic manufacturing service) firm, to developing robot production technology has paid off, as the firm has been contracted by Japan's Softbank, a telecommunication and Internet company, to supply humanoid robot " Pepper."

At a presentation for the robot held in early June, Softbank's president Masayoshi Son and CEO, Bruno Maisonnier, and Hon Hai's chairman, Terry Guo confirmed the said deal,  marking not just the two firms' foray into the Japanese market for robots, but the Taiwanese contract manufacturer's first order for such products.

Son introduced at the event Pepper as the world's first robot that is built with an emotional engine to read human emotion and interact with people. The household version of the robot will be launched in Japan starting  February 2015, to be priced at JPY198,000 and  be exclusively manufactured by Hon Hai.

Guo also commented that Softbank's humanoid robot is different from conventional robots that lack enthusiasm, love or affection, and will  revolutionize robotic role in human society in the future.

Hon Hai has been developing robots largely through the Foxnum Technology Co., Ltd. set up in 2009. With an R&D center in Taiwan, Foxnum is focused on developing 3 and 5-axis robotic arms. However, it is still uncertain if the firm will be subcontracted to make Pepper, said insiders, given that humanoid robots require higher technology levels than robotic arms to produce.

Hon Hai is contracted for the first time to supply humanoid robots, but is believed by some detractors to still need some time before generating profit from the new business. The abovementioned deal, nevertheless, brings considerable business potential to the newcomer, primarily because Japan's domestic demand for robots is expected to skyrocket to JPY2.85 trillion by 2020 after reaching only JPY860 billion in 2012, according to Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

A couple of Taiwanese firms with close ties to Hon Hai are also expected to benefit from the deal, including Hiwin Technologies Corp. (robotic arms), Usun Technology Co., Ltd. (automation equipment), Ennoconn Corporation (industrial PCs), and so forth. (SC)


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