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Understanding the market, robot aptitude, and use conditions is essential for commercializing robotsYoji Kuroda

<Series 2(Total 4 series)>

2020.05.14

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Robots have gained prominence in industry on the back of rapid performance improvements and a surge in demand, and the government is also promoting their real-world implementation. However, commercialization requires calmly identifying the "value" that robots bring, says Mr. Yoji Kuroda, a professor at Meiji University, a robot engineer, and co-founder of a robot venture company. In the second article, we will consider the key points for the successful commercialization of robots.


First, understand the aptitude of the robot

"Perhaps due to the influence of anime, many people in Japan seem to think that humanoid robots with communication functions are valuable. But in other countries, robots are just tools that replace human work. Unless the value proposition, in other words what problems the robot will solve for people, exceeds the cost of adoption, it will not spread throughout society. "

Mr. Kuroda's robot venture company “SEQSENSE Inc." aims to develop a "robot that works steadily and solves problems by utilizing the strengths unique to robots." SEQSENSE aims to solve labor shortages by using robots to divide labor between humans and robots and optimize the workforce.

"The great strength of robots is that they can repeat the same task at the same quality and without mistakes. This does not change even if the robot leaves the factory. On the other hand, their two-way communication skills are still far behind those of humans. What we need to consider in commercializing robots is the aptitude of robots and the promise of markets."

Search for promising markets where robot capabilities can be exploited

The security industry is chronically understaffed. The working population is expected to continue to decline over the coming decades. After a market survey, Mr. Kuroda anticipated a major event in 2020, and thought that demand would further increase thereafter. Demand for "security robots" is expected and they have been found to be feasible in terms of the usage environment.

"For patrols of buildings and other structures, the target area is limited to indoors. In addition, because it is private land, it is easy to take measures against noise that could hinder robot operation, such as factors that might affect sensors. We thought it was relatively easy to prepare the environment. This leads us to the security robot "SQ-2."

By contrast, despite existing demand, we anticipated that last mile delivery by delivery businesses would present difficulties.

"There are often reports about labor shortages, and other countries are also conducting research and development on delivery by automated driving and drones, but since it covers wide outdoor areas including public roads, it is easily affected by weather and climate. The hurdles are high because we need to clear the standards of laws and regulations such as the Road Traffic Act."

If you are writing a research paper on robot technology, perfection means succeeding 9 times out of 10. However, Mr. Kuroda emphasizes that errors must be reduced to no more than 1 in 10,000 times when considering real-world commercial implementation.

There are many issues to consider when considering commercial and real-world implementation

"The underlying technology of robots has certainly evolved in a major way. However, research and commerce require different magnitudes of perfection. For commercialization, it is essential to take into account not only technical conditions but also actual use conditions to make a sober decision."

Mr. Kuroda also visited work locations with the cooperation of security companies when developing the SQ-2, and improved the robot to meet the needs of the work locations. With the cooperation of Mitsubishi Estate, demonstrations were conducted to get building owners on board.

The government's "New Robot Strategy" lists sectors where the use and spread of robots promise increased productivity: (1) manufacturing, (2) services, (3) nursing and medical care, (4) infrastructure, disaster response, and construction, (5) agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and food industries. In the distribution industry, robots are commonly used in warehouses. If you are considering entering the robot business, you will need to collect this kind of information and give careful consideration based on the value that your technology and robot can provide, and the environment in which it will be used.


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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