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SoftBank CEO Son Says Smart Robots Can Revitalise Japan Growth, Competitiveness

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TOKYO—SoftBank Group Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son on Wednesday said so-called smart robots can revitalise Japan’s economy and competitiveness, doubling down on robotics just as the company’s much-hyped “Pepper” robot prepares to bow out. Son, at the online SoftBank World 2021 conference, said the firm’s Vision Fund is involved with 18 companies developing machines enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI), far beyond the dancing and door-greeting capabilities of the cutesy Pepper. “We had a grandiose debut event with Pepper several years ago, now it is hanging its head low,” Son said, standing in front of a projection of a slumping, switched-off Pepper. The SoftBank founder now sees a future with “smart robots that will replace not just the manufacturing, industrial working population, but the entire working population.” Son packed his keynote address with videos of humanoid robots running and jumping, as well as canister-shaped machines cleaning floors. However, he offered no …

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