Maybe the robots aren't coming for your jobs just yet.
Pepper, a humanoid robot from Japanese VC firm SoftBank, burst onto the scene in 2014 to considerable fanfare and media coverage. Since then, however, the bot has failed at many of the simple jobs it's been given, from entertaining residents at nursing homes to greeting guests in bank lobbies, according to The Wall Street Journal.
As such, some of the company's customers have declined to renew their contracts with SoftBank, according to the Journal, which reported that used Peppers can now be found online for a few hundred dollars apiece
The robots have been prone to mechanical errors and unplanned breaks, and they've failed to recognize people they've met before, the Journal notes. One company tried to train Pepper to recite scriptures during funeral services, but the bot kept breaking down during practice sessions.
One robotics expert told the publication that SoftBank might have misstepped by making the robot look like a human, since that tends to raise customers' expectations of the bot's capabilities.
Pepper sells for about $2,000, plus a $550 per month subscription fee. Experts say that many of Pepper's functions can be executed more reliably and cost- effectively by smart speakers or smartphone assistants.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son fed the Pepper hype machine back in 2014. "Today might become a day that people 100, 200, or 300 years later would remember as a historic day," he said during an ceremony introducing Pepper. The first batch of 1,000 robots then sold out in one minute.
Pepper was created by French robotics company Aldebaran, which SoftBank acquired in 2013. In 2016, Aldebaran chief of innovation Rodolphe Gelin told Inc. that the company wanted Pepper to be able to understand a wide range of human emotions, and that its physical abilities set it apart from other home and office assistants. "The things that will make the real difference between robots and other digital devices is locomotion and manipulation," he said. "Those will be the basic functions that will make everything else possible."