The French nugget Aldebaran, which is well known in the field of robotics, has been bought by the Japanese group SoftBank. This is the end of a beautiful French story that started in 2005. Aldebaran had immediately established itself among the giants of robotics by giving birth to its first robot, the famous Nao. The company, which has 450 employees, was until then managed by the Frenchman Bruno Maisonnier. His replacement, the Japanese Fumihide Tomizawa, will take up his duties on 4 March.
The story of this acquisition begins in 2010 when the University of Tokyo starts to take an interest in the robot Nao. It was a major communication operation for the French diplomacy at the time, which congratulated itself in front of microphones and cameras on the triumph and performance of the French technology industry through Aldebaran. Can you imagine? Selling robots to Japanese people is like selling chips to Belgians. This feat was accomplished by a young French startup. Cock-a-doodle-doo!
There are now fewer French officials to comment on the takeover of almost all (95 %) of this French company by the telecoms giant. Softbank. No one either to comment on the departure of Bruno Maisonnier, justified in a press release by his need to take time, to reflect, to write books and to meet people around the world .
Should we congratulate ourselves on this takeover, which is a remarkable industrial success, or should we be saddened by it? The players in this operation prefer to refuse to comment, claiming that it is the business of private companies. Yet questions arise: why did Aldebaran not find a French company of the size of Softabank willing to share the dream of a French robotics industry? Aldebaran is just one example among many of the many cases of French startups, particularly in the field of nanotechnologies, to offer themselves body and soul with full foreign portfolios, failing to find sufficient financial support in France for their great ambitions.
Chance of the calendar or not, this acquisition comes at the same time as Aldebaran launches its new generation of Pepper robots on the market. A semi-android robot one meter high mounted on wheels, Pepper relies on networked remote artificial intelligence. It is designed to be able to hold a conversation with a person, taking into account the feelings they express. He also communicates remotely with his peers through a data exchange network so that everyone can enrich their knowledge and react better and better to humans. A huge commercial success is in the offing.
Ugo YachéUP' Magazine Journalist
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