Softbank, Microsoft Partner to Drive Next Gen Cloud Robotics

SoftBank Robotics Corp. and Microsoft Corporation have announced a strategic collaboration in the field of cloud robotics.

As a first step, Microsoft and SoftBank Robotics will work together to create a next-generation cloud-enabled robot using “Pepper” — SoftBank Robotics’ humanoid robot — and Microsoft’s cloud-based Azure IoT Suite.

They will then work together to build a next-generation in-store solution for the retail industry, using Microsoft’s Surface Hub large-screen collaboration device and Surface 2-in-1 devices together with these new cloud-enabled robots to serve customers in person. The solution is scheduled to be sold in Japan starting in the fall of 2016, with the help of Microsoft Japan Co., Ltd. (headquarters: Minato-ku, Tokyo; President: Takuya Hirano).

Microsoft and SoftBank Robotics plan to work together to develop the following experiences:

Pepper, Surface Hub, Surface and other in-store devices will connect to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, enabling large volumes of store-based data, customer behavior and point-of-sale purchases to be integrated with similar online data from smartphones, e-commerce sites and other sources for analysis using Azure IoT Suite.
Based on this analysis, Pepper will offer tailored suggestions to customers in-line with previous purchasing behavior and will also be capable of monitoring multiple channels in real time to make recommendations on which products to display via Surface Hub or other Surface terminals.
Achieve better and more predictive recommendations for customers through the machine learning capabilities of Azure IoT Suite.

In addition to having customer service skills, Pepper will also facilitate efficient inventory management by leveraging real-time feedback from stores. Customers visiting the stores will be able to use Surface Hub or Surface to browse products visually, and then easily make purchases based on Pepper’s recommendations for them.

The deployment of Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant, and Microsoft Translator-based services, including multilingual support, will also enhance the customer service experience provided by Pepper.

In anticipation of a fall release, SoftBank will begin field-testing the solution from March 24 to 30 for a limited time at its “Pepper-Packed Mobile Shop” (Minato-ku, Tokyo) where customers will be served entirely by Pepper robots.