Mizuho introduces SoftBank’s Pepper robot to Tokyo bank branch

Bloomberg, JIJI

Mizuho Financial Group Inc. introduced SoftBank Group Corp.’s Pepper robot to its flagship branch in central Tokyo on Friday.

The 121-cm-tall humanoid will entertain customers with games and multimedia and provide basic information on products. The bank plans to add its robot employee to five other branches in Tokyo by the end of the year.

“Pepper will get people excited about going to the bank,” Tetsuhiko Saito, head of personal banking at Mizuho’s main lending unit, told reporters.

Mizuho follows larger peer Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc., which in February unveiled NAO robots, also developed by a SoftBank unit, for use at its branches. Robotics features in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revive the economy and combat the nation’s aging and shrinking population.

Pepper went on sale to Japanese consumers on June 20, and all 1,000 units sold out within a minute.

SoftBank Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son has said the company aims to maintain a monthly production capacity of 1,000 robots.

SoftBank touts the device as the world’s first that can read human emotions. Pepper has a price tag of ¥213,840, but when factoring in fees for insurance and apps, the total cost in the first three years rises to more than ¥1.17 million.

SoftBank released some units ahead of the commercial launch, selling 200 units to software developers in February.