Wed, May 18, 2016 - Page 14 News List

APT to spin off robotics team into joint venture

PEPPER PUSH:The telecom plans to create a company to provide after-sale services for Pepper robots as well as application development and software verification

By Lisa Wang  /  Staff reporter

Asia Pacific Telecom Co (APT, 亞太電信), a telecom subsidiary of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密), yesterday said it plans to form a new robotics company in the third quarter of this year.

The joint venture with Hon Hai and other partners would be aimed at providing services connected with smart homes, smart cities, smart factories and smart offices, APT chairman Lu Fang-ming (呂芳銘) said at APT’s Taipei headquarters.

Creating a robotics service company is the first step in the firm’s diversification plans, Lu said, but he did not provide financial details about the new venture.

In the initial stages, the new company would focus on developing services to operate Japanese telecom Softbank Corp’s humanoid robot, Pepper, Lu said.

The waist-high robot is manufactured by Hon Hai, and Lu said that APT has established a special task force to develop software and applications for the robots.

APT plans to spin off the team to create a new company with partners to take charge of a wide range of businesses, including after-sale services for Pepper robots, maintenance services, application development, software verification and software certification, Lu said.

The formation of the robotics service company would pave the way for the local launch of the Pepper robot in the July-to-September quarter at the earliest, APT said.

APT’s robotics team has developed some applications for department stores, electronics retailers, telecoms and banks to deploy robots at their outlets.

Initially, Pepper robots are to be used at mobile phone stores and bank outlets to greet consumers and provide services, Lu said.

In the second half of this year, APT plans to allow Pepper robots to offer more functions and more services, similar to the way the androids are used in Japan, Lu said.

Pepper robots are scheduled to become available on Taiwan’s consumer market next year, Lu said.

The first batch of 1,000 Pepper robots offered to consumers went on sale in Japan in the middle of June last year, with additional batches of 1,000 over the following months. Those initial batches sold out within minutes, despite the ¥198,000 (US$1,813 at current exchange rates) price tag.

In related news, APT statistics show it now has 1.02 million 4G subscribers. The company said it has 3,700 base stations nationwide and the figure is expected to grow to more than 4,000 by the end of this year, with coverage available to 99 percent of the public.

APT shares edged up 0.72 percent to close at NT$9.85 yesterday in Taipei trading, compared with the broader market’s 0.90 percent rise.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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