#Asia #Japan Show 39: The Hard Truth Behind Japan’s Cute Robots – Shunsuke Aoki


Japan has a long cultural fascination with human-like robots. Literature, cinema and anime are filled with them, and perhaps not surprisingly, a large number of Japanese startups are focused on making anthropomorphic robots. I have to admit that this fascination never really made sense to me until Shunsuke explained it during this interview.

Out guest today, Shunsuke Aoki of Yukai Engineering lays it all out in a way that makes perfect sense.

We talk about Bocco, Yukai’s new social robot, and we do a deep dive into how the robotics industry is changing. And how developments in both artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things might make social robots not only possible, but positively necessary.

Shunsuke also shares his ideas about some of Japan’s big advantage in innovative robotics research and let’s us in on the one big thing that’s holding it back.

It’s a great show, and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes for Startups

Why Japan has a fascination with robots
How robots will be used in senior care and child care
Is there really a ghost in the machine?
Yukai’s product development process
How to use YuTube for market research
Would you trust a cute robot to run your home
Why the smart phone is an evolutionary dead end
What the Japanese government can do to support robotics industry

Links from the Founder

Yukai’s innovative products
Follow Shunsuke on twitter @aopico
Friend him on Facebook
Say hello to Bocco the social robot

 Leave a comment
Transcript from Japan
Welcome to Disrupting Japan, straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero and thanks for joining me.

Until today’s interview, I never really understood the wide spread fascination with anthropomorphic robots in Japan. The human like robots proliferate in both Japanese games and movies, and in a surprising number of Japanese robotics startups. Fortunately, our guest today, Shunsuke Aoki of Yukai Engineering explains it all in a way that makes sense. Shunsuke and his team were behind such products as the nekomimi, which are a pair of thought controlled robot cat ears and the AIBO robot and Bocco, their new family robot. We talk about their product development and their marketing strategies, as well as how the robotics market and the robot market are changing.

We also talk about the reason that anthropomorphic robots might very well have a critical role to play in the coming Internet of Things revolution.

But, I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s get right to the interview.


Tim: Ready to get started? Cheers.

Shun: Cheers.

Tim: I’m sitting here with Shunsuke Aoki of Yukai Engineering. Let’s see, you founded in 2007 to make cool consumer robots and gadgets, is that a fair description?

Shun: My company focuses on communication robots. We make something fun. We don’t make something that’s useful.

Tim: So, it’s more entertainment robots, not industrial robots.

Shun: Yeah.

Tim: Since you founded this company in 2007, you’ve had a string of really interesting, creative products.

Shun: Wow! Thank you.

Tim: I can’t list them all here, because we’d never finish the podcast. You had a really big hit with nekomimi, which a lot of our listeners might know and they might not. It was a set of robotic cat ears that responded to brainwaves.

Shun: Yeah. Brainwave and it can tell the state of your mind. Concentration and relaxed.

Tim: So your ears would go up and down depending on your state.

Shun: Yes.

Tim: That was quite a big hit when you first introduced it, two years ago?

Shun: It was introduced in 2012.

Tim: Is it still selling well?

Shun: Yes, it’s still selling well.

Tim: Ok. We’re talking about social robots. Your latest creation,

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