[CEATEC Preview] Murata Tells Story behind 'Seiko-chan' Robot

Sep 30, 2008
Naoki Asakawa, Nikkei Electronics

There is an event that has gained exceptional popularity at CEATEC JAPAN over the past few years. That is the demonstration of the "Murata Seisaku-kun" bicycling robot developed by Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd.

Opportunities to demonstrate Murata Seisaku-kun's ability are not limited to CEATEC. Now Seisaku-kun is in strong demand from elementary and junior high schools across Japan. Seisaku-kun is traveling all over Japan in the form of "visiting class" lectures with the aim of evangelizing the attraction of science technology to children.

This year, it turned out that Murata Seisaku-kun has a female cousin (See related article). Her name is "Murata Seiko-chan." Seiko-chan riding and balancing on a unicycle will surely fascinate the audience at CEATEC JAPAN 2008.

One factor that triggered the development of Seiko-chan was children's requests, Murata said. Nikkei Electronics interviewed Koichi Yoshikawa, who was engaged in the development of the Murata Seisaku-kun and is now traveling all over Japan as a lecturer of the visiting class, about how the Murata Seiko-chan was developed. (Interviewer: Naoki Asakawa)

Q: Why did you develop the Murata Seiko-chan?

Yoshikawa: Since unveiling the "Murata Seisaku-kun" for the first time at CEATEC in 2005, we upgraded its version primarily through software revisions in 2006 and 2007. Seiko-chan's development is positioned as a drastic remodeling of the Murata Seisaku-kun.

What triggered the remodeling is a meeting we had to allow veteran and younger staff members freely exchange opinions as part of our efforts to reform our corporate culture. When one attendee proposed "the creation of a higher performance Seisaku-kun" at the meeting, the discussion really warmed up, with both veteran and younger employees becoming involved.

We agreed that we should make something greater than Seisaku-kun, which drew interest in realizing the capability to stand still while riding a bike.

Then we decided to try a unicycle model. In fact, we were frequently requested by children at the visiting classes where we showed Seisaku-kun. They said, for example, "I want Seisaku-kun to do a wheelie!" and "I can ride both a bicycle and unicycle. What about Seisaku-kun?"

Seiko-chan was developed by a team consisting of eight engineers who were engaged in the development of electronic component processing systems. We applied the control technology that is required to precisely process minute components to the control of Seiko-chan's posture. It took us about six months to develop and complete the robot while doing our normal jobs.

Q: Why did you design the new robot as a little girl?

Yoshikawa: One of the reasons is that we were asked by our overseas clients. They asked us, "Why is there no Murata Girl when there is a Murata Boy (Seisaku-kun's English name)?"

We designed it as a girl in kindergarten to clarify the idea that it is a robot that is smaller than Seisaku-kun. Seiko-chan's external design is a work by three female employees who graduated from art universities and work as CAD operators at Murata.

Q: Will you explain how Seiko-chan's control technology differs from that of Seisaku-kun?

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