Labour-strapped Japan restaurants to get SoftBank’s food service robot
TOKYO (JAPAN) – In the wake of Japanese restaurants struggling with labour shortage and social distancing norms during the pandemic scourge, SoftBank’s robotics arm announced on Monday it will introduce a food service robot developed by Bear Robotics of California.
Named Servi, the robot sports layers of trays and has 3D cameras and Lidar sensors for navigation. It will be pressed into service in the country in January, said SoftBank Group Corp.
Based on a three-year plan, Servi will cost 99,800 yen ($950) a month excluding tax.
This will leverage the group’s long experience in technology from abroad to Japan. But it marks a shift from CEO Masayoshi Son’s focus on humanoid robots.
The robot has already been tested by Japanese restaurant operators, including Seven & i Holdings at its Denny’s chain. The restaurant sector is grappling with an ageing workforce and acute shortage of young hands.
Humanoid Pepper of SoftBank became the face of the company when it was unveiled in 2014. However, it failed to find a global customer base.
In 2018, the firm announced cleaning robot Whiz, which makes use of technology from group portfolio company Brain Corp. It has sold more than 10,000 units across the world.
SoftBank is contemplating using Whiz as a coronavirus countermeasure. It said on Monday that Pepper can be used in conjunction with thermal sensors to monitor customers.