SoftBank Robotics, SoftBank Group’s robotic arm, has issued an open public call for participation in its robot competition this year in China.
The organizer of the competition, RoboCup 2023, will hold a regional tournament in China, scheduled to take place in May-June, according to SoftBank Robotics.
The exact date and venue of the event has not been disclosed, though.
RoboCup, which SoftBank has held since 1997, is an international scientific initiative with the goal to advance the state of the art of intelligent robots, said the official website of RoboCup.
The original mission, in the early days since its inception, was to field a team of robots capable of taking on human soccer World Cup champions by 2050.
But now the focus has shifted to exploring wider use and testing the limits of current robotic technologies.
The China leg of the competition this year will continue to utilize the RoboCup standard platform provided by NAO or Pepper, two robots developed by SoftBank Robotics.
But this pair appears to be costly, cash-burning endeavors that are far from ripe for monetization.
Pepper, whose creation was said to be inspired by the childhood dream of Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank, even sold at a price below its production cost when it was first introduced, amounting to a loss then of US$1 billion for SoftBank Robotics.
Instead, over the years they have served as an open-source platform for research and development in industries ranging from AI, K12 education and STEAM education to guiding and commercial services, according to a press release.
The RoboCup organizer has also publicized rules of the competition for college entrants, with SoftBank staff ready to provide hardware and software support during the event.
SoftBank has been an avid promoter of robotics in China, with the venture capital titan pouring huge funds into the sector in recent years.
It backed a series of domestic robotic startups and lifted them to the rank of unicorns or quasi-unicorns, such as Keenon Robotics (擎朗智能), Agile Robots (思灵机器人), Youibot (优艾智合) and Fourier Intelligence (傅利叶智能).