Want China Times — Chinese tech giant Tencent has unveiled its first smart hardware product, Weibao. The robotic ball is controlled by a smartphone app and can interact with users through games, reports Tencent’s tech news web portal. Weighing 180 grams, Weibao is in the shape of a ball 7.35cm in diameter.
Tech in Asia — Once upon a time, software was the in-thing that everyone believed would change the world. And it did. Like all other trends, however, it is slowly fading out of the consciousness of popular media. Rising to take its place is hardware and the IoT. Hong Kong, in particular, is alive to the possibilities that this industry holds, and is trying to build an ecosystem to nurture these technologies. At the center of all this activity is the Hong Kong Science Technology Park (HKSTP), which recently organized and hosted the APAC Innovation Summit.
IT News — Travellers on the new Sydney-Haneda Qantas flights are likely to receive a glimpse of the future upon landing as the Tokyo-based airport begins a major project to put robots in all passenger terminals. Haneda’s operator, Japan Airport Terminal Co (JAT), yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with Cyberdyne, the Japanese university spinout best known for its exoskeletal suit HAL.
Want China Times — Taiwan-based Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (Foxconn), the world’s largest contract electronics maker, said Thursday that it is planning to replace 30% of its workforce with robots within the next five years to improve manufacturing efficiency. The initiative will allow Hon Hai to replace monotonous jobs with robots and allocate some of the 30% to higher-level tasks such as developing software, engaging in e-commerce business and designing human-computer interfaces to improve artificial intelligence and robot management, company chairman Terry Gou said at a meeting with shareholders.
China Tech News — Alibaba Group announced that the company and Taiwan-based Foxconn have made strategic investments of JPY14.5 billion, which is about CNY732 million, into SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corporation. Under the agreement signed by the three parties, Alibaba and Foxconn will hold a 20% stake in SBRH, respectively; while SoftBank will own the remaining 60%.
Foxconn Electronics will team up with Japan-based Softbank to form a joint venture for manufacturing robot products, according to Japan-based Nikkei Asian Review. Foxconn and Softbank have been cooperating on the production of robots since June 2014, and Foxconn has rolled out a bunch of ‘Pepper’ robots developed by Softbank’s subsidiary, Aldebaran, said the report.
Segway’s recent exit is just as murky and mysterious as its birth. Today Xiaomi announced that Ninebot, a Chinese robotics company, has purchased the New Hampshire-based scooter company for an undisclosed sum. In what Ninebot calls a “strategic partnership,” Segway will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ninebot, which is concurrently announcing a US$80 million funding round from Xiaomi, Sequoia Capital, Shunwei Capital, and others.
The electronics industry may still be reliant on human workers to assemble products, but Apple supplier Foxconn Technology Group is hopeful that robots will take over more of the workload soon. In three years, Foxconn will probably use robots and automation to complete 70 percent of its assembly line work, said company CEO Terry Gou on Thursday in news footage circulated online.
MUMBAI: After decades of low-margin work like server maintenance, India’s information technology services firms are moving upscale in search of lucrative contracts for driverless cars and other advanced projects as online innovation changes clients’ needs. Companies from Tata Consultancy Services Ltd to Wipro Ltd are all joining Infosys Ltd in investing in new, high-end technology, industry watchers say. Earlier this week Infosys bought US automation specialist Panaya Inc for $200 million.
Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in January 2015 announced new five-year strategies for robot development, with a goal of attaining a domestic market value of JPY2.4 trillion (US$20.5 billion) for robot applications by fiscal year (FY) 2020 (April 2020-March 2021), according to Digitimes Research.
Speaking today at his company’s fiscal year 2014 earnings report briefing in Tokyo, SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son revealed that Pepper, the telco’s personal humanoid robot, won’t be sold to consumers until later this summer. When Pepper was unveiled last June, Son stated that the robot would be sold to consumers in February 2015. “We are going to sell Pepper to developers only in February,” Son told the audience. “We haven’t reached a final decision yet but that’s the direction we’re discussing now.
In search of extra efficiency, the Henn-Ha Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan is employing a host of robots to staff the hotel instead of humans. It is the first fully robotic hotel and is one of many Japanese commercial robot projects happening throughout the country, showing how far robotics has come. Robotics company Kokoro is developing the robots for the hotel, designed with a human-like body. The robots will be able to gesture, keep eye contact and respond to guests.
Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer and maker of Apple devices, is hoping to slim its global workforce with the help of robots. The group currently employs about 1.3 million people during peak production times, making it one of the largest private employers in the world. As a key Apple supplier, the company has had a solid run in recent years, but faces declining revenue growth and rising wages in China.
Already a major manufacturer of electronics, China is preparing to bolster its presence in robotics with the help of government support and investments. China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will develop a “robotics technology roadmap” as part of new government plans, the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday. The country’s goal is to establish a robotics industry that can grab over 45 percent of the high-end market by 2020, the report said. It was not clear if the ministry was referring to the domestic or global market.
TOKYO: Food giant Nestle said on Wednesday (Oct 29) that its Japan unit would hire 1,000 robots as sales clerks at stores across the country. The first batch of the robots – a chatty humanoid called Pepper – will report to work by the end of this year at outlets that sell coffee capsules and home espresso machines. “From December, they will start selling coffee machines for us at big retail stores,” said Nestle Japan spokeswoman Miki Kano. “We are sure that our customers will enjoy shopping and being entertained by robots.”
SoftBank founder and CEO Masayoshi Son took the stage at SoftBank World 2014 this morning to share his revolutionary ideas for reversing Japan’s declining economy. If you’ve been following SoftBank recently, it should come as no shock that one of Son’s proposed remedies is the implementation of a robotic workforce. He also stressed the importance of utilizing existing technology – smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing – to gain an edge over the competition.
Expect more wearables, robots and even electric cars to come from manufacturing giant Foxconn Technology Group, as the Taiwanese company tries to reinvent itself as a broader technology service provider. While Foxconn now mainly manufactures products for vendors like Apple and Sony, the company is hoping to seize on new opportunities emerging in the market. “When a typhoon comes, even a pig can fly,” joked Foxconn’s CEO Terry Gou at its annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday.
TOKYO: A chatty humanoid robot whose makers claim it can understand people’s emotions made its first friends Friday as it struck up conversations with shoppers in Tokyo. And the device — named Pepper by its designers — proved an effective marketing tool for mobile carrier SoftBank, delighting managers who put it to work collecting customer opinions.
URAYASU: Japan’s SoftBank on Thursday unveiled what it billed as an “emotional” humanoid robot that will entertain customers at the mobile carrier’s phone outlets — and maybe become a member of their family. Company president Masayashi Son joked around with the talking, dancing and singing humanoid named Pepper at an event just outside Tokyo.
Global software giant Microsoft Corp claimed its artificial intelligence chatting robot, Xiaobing, has been blocked by WeChat without prior notice, a move described by the American company as a “brutal murder”. The shutdown of Xiaobing accounts came just six days after Microsoft announced that it had reached an exclusive partnership agreement with WeChat for the Siri-like service that allowed WeChat users access to a social assistant.