RoboCup2017 Nagoya Japan(ロボカップ2017)
RoboCup2017 Nagoya Japan(ロボカップ2017)
High Quality of Robot Design Is Required All the More Because RoboCup Strives to Create New Industries
Messages Presented by the RoboCup Design Award
“I began to be engaged in robot design in 1999, when I competed in RoboCup,” said Mr. Tatsuya Matsui at the beginning of this interview. It seems that many of those who are leading today’s robot industry have been influenced by RoboCup, learned a lot from the spirit of the event, and serve as cornerstones of RoboCup in the future. One such authority is Mr. Matsui, who is known worldwide as a robot designer.
Mr. Matsui is also CEO of Flower Robotics, which began to provide support for RoboCup in 2015 as a RoboCup Global Partner. At the same time, the company established the RoboCup Design Award to evaluate robot design. What was behind this?
The final installment of the RoboCup official interview series features Mr. Tatsuya Matsui.
- So, do you mean that competing in RoboCup aroused your interest in robots and the robot industry?
Yes. If I had not competed in RoboCup at that time, I might be working today as a designer in a quite different industry. In 1998, an international RoboCup competition was held in Paris. Partly because I lived in Paris in those days, I was greatly impressed by the event. In the following year, I participated in the KITANO Symbiotic Systems Project (*1). In the same year, I competed in the soccer small-size league of RoboCup as a member of the team J-Star. This is the robot that I designed at that time, my first one.
The picture on the left shows the robot that the team J-Star used when competing in the RoboCup small-size league. The picture on the right shows the robot Pino, developed as part of the KITANO Symbiotic Systems Project. Appearing in the promotional video of Can You Keep a Secret? by Ms. Hikaru Utada, Pino received a FY 2000 Good Design Award. Both robots were designed by Mr. Matsui.
*1. KITANO Symbiotic Systems Project: A research project for which Dr. Hiroaki Kitano, Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc.,
serves as the Research Director. (Dr. Hiroaki Kitano is one of the founders of RoboCup. For details, please check the first installment
of the official interview series.
* 2.J-Star: This team achieved excellent results in winning the RoboCup Japan Open in 1998 and 1999, and reaching the final eight at
RoboCup 1998 Paris.
A Token of My Appreciation to RoboCup for Having Helped Me Become Aware of Various Things
- Can you tell us why and how Flower Robotics has become a RoboCup Global Partner?
RoboCup takes place based on a number of philosophies, one of which is to create new industries.
To shift robots and robot technologies from research to business, you need to complete the entire process of innovation, development, manufacturing, and appealing to customers. In addition, when robots are released onto the market, it is important to ensure that they are actually used. It does not make any sense to run a robot business without satisfying these conditions. So, the idea is that only if robots are actually used in society, will robot science contribute to human beings.
For many of those who have competed in RoboCup, I always felt that not only did they leave the mark of innovation, but also that they were contributing a great deal to actual society and industries by taking advantage of the technologies and management skills that they learned at RoboCup, and were thus doing something to show their gratitude to RoboCup. Different people use different approaches, but in my case, I established Flower Robotics, and used what I had learned at RoboCup for my business. As an individual who had competed in RoboCup, I wanted to support the next-generation RoboCup by becoming a Global Partner.
- I see. At the same time, you established the RoboCup Design Award. Can you tell us a little about it?
Unlike soccer, @home, rescue and other competition leagues, the RoboCup Design Award is not a game but a prize granted to a robot selected from among those competing in RoboCup and evaluated by judges as featuring an especially excellent design. All the competing teams have the right to participate in the award, and teams that have applied to participate are eligible to be evaluated. Last year, the award was given to a team participating in the rescue league.
Design Required for Robots
- Can you tell us about the evaluation standards?
What I call “design” for the award is not a character design, and it is also not about whether the robot looks cool or not. Whether the robot competes in the league of soccer, rescue, or @home, the basic assumption is that robots will be used in industry. In that sense, design is relevant to every aspect, such as functionality, ease of maintenance, reproducibility, mobility, and portability.
- Do you mean a rational design?
For example, at RoboCup, even if a team has a robot with an excellent technology, it does not always follow that the team can win one victory after another and demonstrate excellent performance. The international competition is held in a wide variety of countries, which means that the venue settings and environment differ greatly each time. In addition, you need to travel a lot, sometimes requiring you to assemble and disassemble your robot many times. To do so, so-called “reproducibility” is necessary, and your robot needs to always demonstrate the desired performance on a stable basis each time it is assembled. Moreover, ease of maintenance is also important. The robot needs to be easy to check for malfunctions after the game, and if any of the parts are damaged, the part needs to be repaired or replaced quickly. Actually, all of these are elements of robot design.
At Flower Robotics, designers (including Mr. Matsui, left) and engineers work together from the beginning of the development of products in order to ensure consistency in design. Design software has evolved a lot over the past 20 years, which also greatly affects their working style. (Photo: By courtesy of Flower Robotics)
- So, the RoboCup Design Award is granted in recognition of those points, right?
Actually, there are more evaluation points. In the field of research, it is important to create one excellent robot, but when considering whether to convert such a robot into one for industrial use, you will need to achieve mass-production of, say, thousands of units, and sometimes even tens of thousands of units. Also, whether the robot will remain excellent even after being placed on the market, and whether it will continue to be used will be called into question. Design starts with consideration of these points, and I believe that they constitute the quality of design, including industrial design, in a genuine sense.
I feel that winning a game is not everything in RoboCup. I believe that the RoboCup Design Award is significant, if it helps many more competitors realize the importance of conceiving robot designs while considering those who will use the robots. If there is any outstanding design, I would like to, of course, evaluate it properly.
Last year, there were some excellent robot designs from teams competing in RoboCupJunior, so we are now considering dividing the award into two: one category for the junior league and one for the other leagues.
Settings and Design
- How did you conceive and consider designs when you competed in RoboCup as a member of the team J-Star?
It is important not only for a designer but also all the other team members to ensure proper communication with one another. For example, if I had said, “I think that the camera should be installed here from the perspective of product design. What do you think about that?,” the engineer in charge of vision might have answered, “No, this is not the right angle, and installation here will affect visibility.” or “Since the exterior and protector are in the way, the camera will not work properly.” While engaging in such discussions again and again, we decided on our design. Even after that, however, there was more that we needed to do. At each venue we had a different problem, like the time the robot’s vision was affected by light reflected on the robot body. To address the problem, we used a coating featuring a color and material that did not reflect well, and corrected the curved line of the body. So, to make your robot truly excellent, you need to test it in a wide variety of settings. It takes several rounds of trial and error (laughter).
At the exhibition booth of Flower Robotics at CES2016. The members entered the venue in uniforms of the same design. The same design taste is featured also for the company’s website, flyers, and other items in order to ensure consistency in design. This enables the company to disseminate its corporate image to society more effectively. Mr. Matsui is still practicing what he has learned through RoboCup. (Photo: By courtesy of Flower Robotics)
When competing in RoboCup, I was in charge of not only robot design, but also visual communication design. I developed all the designs relating to my team, such as the logo of J-Star, the uniforms worn by team members and other staff, and the team’s website. Actually, it is truly significant for team members in charge of different tasks to wear uniforms of the same design with the same logo. This is called “corporate identity” in the world of business. If team members wear uniforms of the same design, they will be able to, strangely enough, get united as a team, strive to realize the same vision, and share the determination to accomplish their goal. Design also has such excellent power.
[ Profile of Mr. Tatsuya Matsui ]
CEO of Flower Robotics / Robot Designer
Born in 1969 in Tokyo. After graduating from the College of Art, Nihon University, in 1991, he worked at Kenzo Tange Urban Architecture and Design Laboratory, before going to France to study. He was also involved in the design of the humanoid robot PINO and other robots at the Japan Science and Technology Corporation.
In 2001, he established Flower Robotics, which developed humanoid robots such as Posy and Palette. Currently, the company is developing the Patin, an autonomous mobile robot for household use. The company is an exhibitor in “Hello, Robot,” an exhibition tour held at museums throughout Europe, starting from 2017.
Some of the company’s robots were also exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Venice Biennale; the Louvre Museum; and the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris, to name a few.
He has received many awards to date, including the iF Design Award (Germany) and the Red Dot Design Award (Germany). He is also a visiting professor at the College of Art, Nihon University, and was a judge of the Good Design Award (from 2007 to 2014).
Interview Composition and Photos: Yoji Kanzaki, Robot Start (https://robotstart.info/)
RoboCup2017 Nagoya Secretariat
(Inter Group Corp.)
Orchid Building 8F, 2-38-2, Meieki, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya, 450-0002 JAPAN