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Improving robot capabilities expands the potential for wider implementation in our societyYoji Kuroda

<Series 1(Total 4 series)>

2020.05.07

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Japan, the world's largest industrial robot producer*. As robots become increasingly popular around the world, how should Japanese SMEs deal with these "robots"? And what business opportunities are there? In this four-part series, we will delve into the topic in an interview with professor Yoji Kuroda of Meiji University, a robot engineer who is also a business entrepreneur and works in the robot business. In the first article, we will discuss the circumstances surrounding robots.
*Source: From the International Federation of Robotics "World Robotics Report 2018"


The expanding robot market

Robots are very promising to industry as a means of improving productivity and as a growth market with great prospects. Worldwide sales of industrial robots have doubled in the five years from 2013 to 2017 and are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 14%.

"There are a wide range of definitions for "robot," but it is common to think that there is some kind of physical “mechanical parts" that are electrically controlled using software. In recent years, they are increasingly viewed with the added condition that "they incorporate various sensors and operate according to the information obtained from them." From this perspective autonomous driving, which has been gaining prominence recently, is a type of robot."

Thus, there are diverse definitions of "robot." From the viewpoint of widening the scope of robots, such as in the government's "New Robot Strategy" described later, the market seems to be infinite.

Significantly improved capabilities due to advances in information processing technology

Industrial robots have been in use for over 50 years and have already been widely implemented in society. So why are robots getting renewed attention now? A big part of that is because of improved robot capabilities due to the evolution of information processing technology.

"Robots have been used only in certain spaces, such as factories. A factory can precisely control how often assembly parts are fed and what position they are fed into, according to the robot's capabilities."

However, in the outside world where it is difficult to set up such an environment, there are too many uncertainties and the information contains too much noise, so past processing technologies including hardware and software cannot process the data, and the robot cannot operate properly.

"Now that large amounts of data can be processed in real-time while eliminating noise, the possibilities for the wider implementation of robots in society are expanding. The fact that autonomous driving is coming into practical use is a result of that."

Government is also promoting the implementation and utilization of robots in society

As countries focus on robotics as part of the national strategy, the Japanese government is taking measures toward the "robot revolution" defined as follows in the "New Robot Strategy" announced in 2015.
1) Due to technological advances in sensors and AI, even things that were not conventionally regarded as robots are becoming robots (for example, automobiles, home appliances, mobile phones, and homes are becoming robots.) ,
2) Robots are being used in various situations from the manufacturing floor to daily life,
3) This is creating a society that produces new added value and brings about convenience and wealth by solving social issues and strengthening the international competitiveness of manufacturing and services.

One of the initiatives for their "use in a wider range of situations" is the security robot "SQ-2" from SEQSENSE Inc. launched by Mr. Kuroda himself. Using technology such as laser sensors, ultrasonic sensors, and image recognition, it performs security patrols while driving autonomously.

Besides using robot technology to improve productivity, there are many business opportunities for SMEs such as supplying parts to these companies. However, Mr. Kuroda warned about robot technology and its utilization, stating that "it is necessary to act firmly based on what current technology can achieve, without harboring illusions about robots." In the second part, we will delve into the meaning behind his words, with examples from SEQSENSE.


Series How to use smart robots and key points for entering the robotics business

Series 1 Improving robot capabilities expands the potential for wider implementation in our society
Series 2 Understanding the market, robot aptitude, and use conditions is essential for commercializing robots
Series 3 How can SMEs play an active role in the robot industry?
Series 4 How to use smart robots and key points for entering the robotics business


Yoji Kuroda
(Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor / Co-founder of SEQSENSE Inc.)

Completed a doctoral program at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering, Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering in 1994. He has been in the current position since 2013 after serving as assistant professor at the Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering; as visiting associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and as associate professor at the Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 2016, he founded the startup "SEQSENSE Inc." to develop autonomous mobile security robots. Researcher at the Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo, joint researcher at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (currently the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA]). Participated in JAXA's asteroid exploration mission and was involved in the development of the asteroid exploration rover mounted on Hayabusa and Hayabusa2.

Coverage date February 13, 2020

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