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SoftBank wants to become a major AI player

In a Sept. 20 speech in New York, Masayoshi Son, founder of the Tokyo company SoftBank, forecast that by 2047, the Earth will be populated by equivalent number of humans and robots — 10 billion each. And the robots, he said, will be "smarter than mankind." Over the last year, Son has been investing in that moment.

Data: Crunchbase; Axios reporting; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios

Why it matters: Son appears intent on becoming as big in artificial intelligence as the U.S. and Chinese tech titans that have dominated AI research — Alibaba, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Tencent and so on. Toward that aim, over the last year, Son's $93 billion Vision Fund has put down large investments in at least a dozen promising AI startups.

Son has also been on the looking for outright acquisitions. In June, he acquired two serious robotics companies — Boston Dynamics and Schaft — for undisclosed sums. The goal is to get ready for what's called “the singularity" — the time when robots and people reach equal numbers.

"What is my belief and vision for this investment? I have only one belief — [the] singularity," he said in New York.