SoftBank to bring food service robot Servi to labour-strapped Japan

FILE PHOTO: Japan's SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son bows his head after his presentation at a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

SoftBank‘s robotics arm said on Monday it will bring a food service robot developed by California-based Bear Robotics to Japan as restaurants grapple with labour shortages and a new socially distanced norm as a result of the novel coronavirus.

The robot named Servi will act as a sort of waiter, using its layers of trays to carry food and drinks and its 3D cameras and Lidar sensors to navigate between kitchen and tables.

Servi will be launched in Japan in January and will cost 99,800 yen ($950) per month excluding tax on a three-year plan, SoftBank Group Corp said.

The start up first showed a prototype to Softbank chief executive Masayoshi Son last year and SoftBank led a $32 million round of investment in the startup in January.

The launch leverages SoftBank‘s long experience in bringing overseas technology to Japan but reflects the shift away from Son’s earlier focus on humanoid robots.

Servi has been tested by Japanese restaurant operators, including Seven & i Holdings at its Denny’s chain, as the sector grapples with an aging workforce and deepening labour shortages.

The launch comes as companies are scrambling to employ technology to offer contactless service and ensure social distancing.

SoftBank‘s humanoid Pepper robot became the face of the company following its 2014 unveiling but failed to find a global customer base.

The firm in 2018 announced cleaning robot Whiz, which employs technology from group portfolio company Brain Corp and has sold more than 10,000 units worldwide.

SoftBank is touting the use of Whiz as a coronavirus countermeasure, and said on Monday that Pepper can be used in conjunction with thermal sensors to monitor customers.

Son has shifted from operating businesses to making investments in recent years. This month, SoftBank announced the sale of cellphone distributor Brightstar as it cuts links to the telecoms industry.

The group also owns Boston Dynamics, which developed the four-legged robot Spot.

SoftBank has a history of troubled investments in the robotics sector.

Reuters

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.