SoftBank buys 95% of French Aldebaran: the end of a French adventure?
One of the French nuggets in robotics goes under the Japanese flag. While it presented a few days ago the prices at which it would market the Pepper robots manufactured by the French company Aldebaran, in which it had invested 100 million euros in 2012, the SoftBank group announced that it rose to 95 % its stake in the company’s capital. For this, he bought the shares held by Bruno Maisonnier who resigned from his position as CEO to become the special advisor to Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, and SoftBank Robotics from the beginning of March.
He will be replaced at the head of the company by Fumihide Tomizawa, the current president of SoftBank Robotics since the creation of the structure in 2014. “We thank Bruno Maisonnier for his incredible contributions within the company he founded in 2005. With him, Aldebaran and SoftBank launched Pepper, the first personal robot capable of reading emotions, in June 2014. In line with SoftBank’s mission, Information Revolution – Happiness for everyon‘, we will strengthen the collaboration with SoftBank Robotics and continue to accelerate Aldebaran’s growth, ”says Fumihide Tomizawa.
Aldebaran is at the origin of the Pepper robot specially developed for SoftBank which wanted to offer a solution to welcome visitors in physical stores. The company claims that he is able to recognize emotions and move around independently. In Japan, Nestlé bought a thousand of them for Nescafé outlets. The French nugget also developed Nao, a 58 cm humanoid robot, more designed for the home. The latter is also used by Thierry Ardisson for his show Hello earthlings! on Canal +.
Founded in 2005, Aldebaran is a French company specializing in robotics. Based in France, it now employs 450 people and has subsidiaries in China, Japan and the United States and claims that its Nao, Romeo and Pepper robots are used in more than 70 countries.
The Nao model was even presented to François Hollande at the Elysee Palace in September 2013 to showcase French know-how. The Ministry of the Economy had also supported the launch of Robolution Capital, an 80 million euro investment fund dedicated to robotics, in March 2014.
Now under SoftBank, Aldebaran’s French adventure takes another turn. “After the successful launch of Pepper, our main common project, I am selling my shares to allow Aldebaran to go even further with SoftBank and to allow me to free myself from the operational by taking height”, estimates Bruno Maisonnier.