(Bloomberg) -- Japan's obsession with robots isn't just a cliche. Companies have been trying to drum up enthusiasm for them for years, with little success.

Pepper, a humanoid machine carrying the hopes of SoftBank Group Corp.'s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son, was supposed to change that. Promoted as the first robot to be endowed with emotions, the company marketed Pepper aggressively after it was unveiled in 2014, promising the gadget was sophisticated enough for tasks usually handled by shop clerks, receptionists and translators.

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