The Syntrend Start-up Foundation (三創育成基金會) is to convene its first robot developer competition for Softbank Corp’s Pepper humanoid robot in an effort to create a developer platform for the robot in Taiwan.
“We hope to gather the resources of enterprises and innovations from start-ups to build a platform for the robotics industry through this competition,” foundation chairman Jeff Gou (郭守正), who also serves as chairman of the Syntrend Creative Park (三創園區) in Taipei, told a news conference.
Gou said the event could help enrich the amount of content for Pepper, as the robot is just a simple device without strong cloud-computing infrastructure and a wide range of applications.
The event could also help accelerate the pace of Pepper’s entry into commercial and consumer markets, he said.
The event is open to domestic and foreign developers who are interested in writing applications for robots, Gou said, adding that a total of 20 teams are to be selected to present their applications at the final of the competition on Sept. 3.
During the three-month contest, a series of workshops and lectures are to be organized by the foundation, IBM Corp and Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控) to help contestants better understand Pepper, Gou said.
Contestants would be able to test their creations on a handful of Peppers in stores at the Syntrend Creative Park and receive instant feedback from customers, Gou added.
The combined prizes for the competition total more than NT$1.3 million (US$39,993), including a top prize of NT$350,000 and NT$250,000 for the runner-up, Gou said.
Gou said he plans to convene the competition on an annual basis, in an attempt to create a hub for robotics industry software and hardware developers in the nation.
In June last year, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) chairman Terry Gou (郭台銘), Jeff Gou’s father, announced a joint investment in the Japanese company’s subsidiary, Softbank Robotics Corp, with China’s Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd (阿里巴巴).
Hon Hai, which owns a 20 percent stake in Softbank Robotics, last month established a subsidiary in Taiwan, Perobot Co Ltd (沛博科技), to focus on developing services to operate the sales business of Pepper, Hon Hai vice president Lu Fang-ming (呂芳銘) said at the news conference.
Pepper is scheduled to enter Taiwan’s commercial market next quarter, with an initial focus on retail stores and financial firms, as well as the education and healthcare segments, Lu said.
Lu said a consumer edition of Pepper is expected to go on sale in Taiwan sometime next year.
Commenting on Asustek Computer Inc’s (華碩) recently unveiled robot Zenbo, which at US$599 is cheaper than Pepper’s ￥198,000 (US$1,858), Lu said: “I have confidence in Pepper, because you get what you pay for.”
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