SoftBank Robotics America (SBRA), the North American arm of Softbank Robotics, named Jordan Sun as head of product, design and engineering.
Sun most recently served as the chief innovation officer for the city of San José where he grew a team of technologists from 3 to 40 and raised over $4 million for civic tech ventures. He built the city’s first data science team and created the first Digital Action Corps that launched a software product to empower mental health service access in the city.
“Jordan’s extensive background in technology, both in the public and private sectors, will be invaluable to SBRA as we drive our vision of cobotics forward,” said Brady Watkins, GM and senior VP of SoftBank Robotics America. “We are thrilled to have him join our team in bringing new robotics solutions to market.”
Prior to San José, Sun was deployed to Afghanistan as the chief operating officer and head of product for the Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan Technology Team. He holds the rank of Major, leading the U.S. Army Reserve’s tech scouting team in Silicon Valley.
He also previously worked with In-Q-Tel’s investments team. Before deploying, Sun was the director of venture development at Siemens Healthineers, where he later led a digital health spinout as CEO. He has held leadership roles in both growth stage startups and public healthcare companies based in the Bay Area and Asia, to include commercializing surgical robots for cancer treatment.
Sun started his career at a Japanese investment bank in New York and then served as a U.S. Diplomat focused on the intersection of national security and technology.
“As I reflect on my time at the intersection of technology and public service, we are at an inflection point in civilization – physical automation has moved out of traditional industrial use cases and is being scaled into our daily lives,” said Sun. “I am excited to begin my next journey in collaborative robotics with SoftBank Robotics America.”
2021 was a tough year for Softbank’s robotics business. In June 2021, Softbank Robotics Europe laid off 40% of its employees in Paris. An employee, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Robot Report at the time that “the market for Nao and Pepper is smaller than we expected.” The source also said Softbank wouldn’t be focusing on the Nao and Pepper robots much going forward.
Reuters reported in June 2021 that Softbank stopped production of Pepper in 2020 and has fewer than 2,000 units left. Reuters cites unnamed sources who said 27,000 Pepper robots have been manufactured since it was introduced in 2014. Softbank, however, has continued to say it is committed to Pepper.
The Whiz cleaning robot is Softbank’s new flagship robot. Softbank has recently made other changes to its robotics strategy, most notably offloading 80% of its ownership stake in Boston Dynamics to Hyundai for $880 million. It also paid $2.8 billion for a 40% ownership stake in AutoStore, a leading developer of automated storage and retrieval systems.
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