SoftBank will start taking pre-orders for the enterprise model of its humanoid robot, Pepper, on October 1. The company revealed today “Pepper for Biz” will cost 55,000 yen (about $440 a month) per month to rent. Contracts are for 36 months, so businesses have to spend a total of about $15,940 in rental charges.
Last month, Pepper landed a $236 million investment from Alibaba and Foxconn, which each now own a 20 percent stake in SoftBank Robotics Holdings (SoftBank holds the remaining 60 percent). The three companies plan to take Pepper and SoftBank’s other robotics businesses into international markets.
One thousand units of Pepper’s consumer version, which cost about $1,610 each, sold out in a minute on June 20 after SoftBank made them available for online orders. The personal version of Pepper, which is designed to read and express human emotions, is supposed to serve as a companion.
The idea of making friends with a robot might seem a little goofy and like something out of “The Jetsons” (or “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt“) but Pepper has potentially important use cases, like interacting with elderly people in Japan, where care homes are already understaffed and more than 40 percent of people will be over 65 years old by 2060.
A SoftBank representative said that it isn’t targeting any specific industry with “Pepper for Biz,” but it looks like the robot is geared toward businesses offering consumer services or retail stores.
The robot will come with applications for office reception and customer interactions and greet shoppers, tell them about products, and entertain them by performing or playing games, all while recording data about their reactions.