SoftBank signed on as strategic partner to Makeblock at the end of 2016, to distribute educational robotics kits, including mBot, mBot Ranger and Ultimate, through its retail channels. At today’s press conference, the two companies jointly released the new flagship product Airblock – a modular programmable drone – and announce SoftBank as the exclusive distributor of Airblock in Japan. SoftBank will make Airblock available to its retail partners YAMADA, Bic Camera, Yodobashi, and other retail and online channels starting July 14th, at a price of JPY 22,000 (pre-tax).
Airblock feature set
- DIY: Airblock’s modular structure lets users easily transform it from drone to hovercraft, and build their own DIY vehicles.
- Play and Learn: With the Makeblock app, both children and adults are able to easily control the craft and learn to program using a graphic interface.
- Unique Magnetic Connectors: Quickly and easily snap modules in place and re-assemble into new forms without need for tools.
- Safe for Indoor Play: Motors are designed with propeller guards to be durable for safety and durability, and a soft exterior made from soft and environmentally friendly EPP foam.
The worldwide trend of STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), a term originating from U.S. education policies, are seeing increased adoption in Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has recently passed a resolution to universally promote programming education in primary schools starting from 2020, with budget being allocated starting this year. Seeing the great prospects of the STEM education industry, SoftBank has entered into a strategic partnership with Makeblock and formed a team of industry leaders to contribute to a more comprehensive education environment in Japan.
“Japan is an increasingly important market. It is our pleasure to have SoftBank as our partner to promote STEM education as part of our entry into the Japanese market. We welcome local enterprises join us as partners in a shared effort to accelerate the progress of STEM education in Japan,” said Jasen Wang, CEO and Founder of Makeblock. Jasen further added, “Japan has superior and advanced technology in the robotics industry, but ‘STEM education’ is less understood by the public compared to other developed countries. We believe Makeblock could be an important actor in introducing STEM education to Japanese customers and inviting them to try it firsthand.”
Tetsuo Kuramitsu, CEO of SoftBank C&S said, “In Japan, programming education has incredible potential and SoftBank C&S has paid close attention to the Japanese educational robotics market. During this time, we encountered Makeblock, the leading company in this industry, and decided to join them in promoting robotics as educational tools. We believe that the partnership between SoftBank and Makeblock will increase access to excellent products and provide additional value to educators, students and parents in Japan. As Makeblock is officially entering Japan today, we aim to work together with Makeblock closely and to create solutions that cater to the Japanese market.”
The move into Japan is significant in the global development and growth of the drone industry. In a recent interview Ted Bahr, who produces the Interdrone trade show, noted that while there is a certain consolidation taking place in the drone indusry, the growth and innovation is going to continue. And it is going to come from the young adults engaging with the technology. Softbank and Japan want to be there.