'Toyota, Honda Can't Stomach Risk'; Japanese Robot Ventures Team Up

Jun 20, 2008
Keita Mochizuki, Tech-On!

Four Japanese robot ventures formed the "Association for Market Creation of the Future Generation Robots," an organization aimed at expanding the robot market, June 18, 2008.

The members of the association are Tmsuk Co Ltd, Business Design Laboratory Co Ltd, Vstone Co Ltd and ZMP Inc.

The four companies will cooperate in marketing activities, which they have independently performed so far, as well as licensing and exchanging their technologies with one another and seeking tie-ups with overseas organizations, they said.

"I've always been concerned that we can't be influential enough to launch an industry alone, no matter how hard we try," said Kenji Kimura, president of Business Design Laboratory.

Tmsuk, which handles a range of robots from a large rescue robot for disasters to a home surveillance robot, chairs the association. The association's headquarters will be located at the main office of Business Design Laboratory, which develops and sells robots that communicate with humans at homes and medical institutes. Vstone is known for its two-legged robot that plays soccer, while ZMP is famous for the development of a music player robot and other creations.

"As applications slightly differ at each company, I don't think the four companies will conflict much (whereas they can cooperate in many areas)," said Yoichi Takamoto, president of Tmsuk.

Sales at these four companies are roughly ¥1.7 billion (US$15.76 million) at Business Design Laboratory and ¥200 to 300 million at each of the other three companies, he said.

For collaboration on the marketing side, the companies are planning joint sales promotion events together with leading distribution companies in the fall of 2008. "It won't draw much attention if a company sets up its robots in a corner of a department store. We think we can generate better results if the four companies come together," Takamoto said.

In terms of technology, Tmsuk is considering licensing its robot remote control technology to the other three companies so they can make their robots support the technology, for example, he said. The association raised a goal to increase home-use robot sales in Japan more than ten times the current 20,000 to 30,000 units in five years, among other goals.

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