In a strategic move as a result of the rising demand for robotics solutions, Iris Ohyama, a Japanese home furnishings maker, is set to acquire Smile Robotics, a promising robotics startup originating from the University of Tokyo. This acquisition, expected to be valued at approximately 1 billion yen ($7 million), will position Iris Ohyama as a player in the robotics industry and enable the development of robots for corporate clients by as early as 2025.
The acquisition agreement was reached on Monday, with Iris Ohyama obtaining all outstanding shares of Smile Robotics, effectively making it a subsidiary of the company. This move comes as Iris Ohyama anticipates an increase in demand for cleaning and catering robots from businesses, particularly restaurants, and hotels, which are grappling with labor shortages.
Iris Ohyama first entered the robotics sector in 2020 through a collaboration with SoftBank Robotics, a part of the SoftBank Group. Together, they successfully modified and sold cleaning and catering robots, customized for the Japanese market, to over 4,000 corporate customers.
One of the primary advantages of this acquisition is the incorporation of Smile Robotics’ operating system, which serves as the brain of the robots. By utilizing this operating system, Iris Ohyama aims to tailor its robots to meet the specific needs of individual corporate clients, enhancing their efficiency and effectiveness.
Smile Robotics, founded in 2019 by CEO Takashi Ogura, who has prior experience at Toyota Motor and Schaft (a Google-acquired bipedal robot company), has already made significant strides in the industry. Specializing in automated meal delivery and catering robots for restaurants, the company has knowledge and expertise gained through collaborations with various enterprises, translating them into practical robotic solutions.