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Japan’s SoftBank says paper robot is ‘alive’ and well made


Japanese technology company SoftBank denies that it is pulling the plug on its friendly, bubble-headed paper robot

TOKYO — Japanese technology company SoftBank denies that it is pulling the plug on its friendly, talkative, bubbly paper robot.

“There has been no change in our paper business,” Ai Kitamura, a spokesman for SoftBank Robotics Corp., said on Wednesday.

The Tokyo-based company said the pepper, introduced seven years ago, is centered around a rental business, and production is regularly adjusted.

While production was temporarily halted, Kitamura denied reports that speculated that the pepper may have been “killed”.

The company acknowledged that the contracts for 330 employees at SoftBank Robotics’ Paris division were being reviewed, but the move was routine and not the death knell for the paper.

If anything, the need for social distancing during the pandemic has fueled demand for robots like Chilly, which are sometimes used to take people’s temperatures in stores.

Paper robots, whose hands are expressive but spin on wheels, are cheering and dancing in the stands for the home games of the SoftBank Hawks Japanese professional baseball team in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan.

And the paper’s latest gig covers computer programming education in Japanese schools.

Robotics technology is widely used in the construction of production lines and in the transportation of goods around the world.

But Masayoshi Son, founder and head of SoftBank Group Corp., and other experts say the Japanese have a soft spot for robots like Pepper that look somewhat human and sometimes show emotion.

Kitamura said the response from fans of the paper was appreciated, and showed that it has become a beloved symbol.

“A lot of people said they would be sad if Pepper was gone,” she said.

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