A new business born out of research and development
TX inc and KMD — “Embodied Media Project”
In 2017, a startup company that will shoulder the future took its first tentative steps from KMD. It is called Telexistence Inc. and is working on commercialization of robotics grounded research in the field of telexistence. The business is being advanced by its founder and chief technology officer Project Senior Assistant Professor Charith Fernando, who received his Ph.D. from KMD in 2013. Telexistence refers to the concept of being able to freely act in a place other than to where one is physically located and the technological systems to realize this. Research in the field utilizes virtual reality (VR) technology to generate something called an avatar, which is like one’s “other self.” For example, try imagining a future where limitless and instant travel, or an elderly person is able to hug his or her grandchild who lives far away, or one in which you could travel to space without boarding a rocket. Telexistence is drawing attention as a big topic among the next-generation technologies that will follow the Internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), and movements are underway toward its full deployment in society. This includes investment in telexistence from large corporations in various sectors such as transportation, logistics, and telecommunications.
Professor Susumu Tachi, who first proposed the idea of telexistence in 1980, became a Project Professor at KMD in 2009. It was while undertaking practical tests at disaster scenes and sites providing nursing care of the latest telexistence robot “Telesar V,” the product of forty years of research, that a craze for VR and augmented reality (AR) sprang to life. “Without a doubt, the age of telexistence is about to have its turn.” With this conviction in mind, Professor Tachi determined to explore the possibility of starting a business with Associate Professor Kouta Minamizawa and Project Senior Assistant Professor Fernando. Further momentum was provided when it was decided that the next international prize money race sponsored by All Nippon Airways (ANA) ANA Avatar XPRIZE (https://avatar.xprize.org/) would be one using avatars. A few years from now, an array of startup companies with their sights on this prize will assemble from around the world, thus laying the business foundations for the commercialization of telexistence. Being one of the first business organizations in the field and the “progenitor” of telexistence, TX inc is surely set to become a presence that, armed with years of research experience and achievements, will make a social impact.
According to Project Senior Assistant Professor Fernando, TX inc is now making rapid progress in developing a commercial telexistence robot, an operations cockpit, and cloud infrastructure to experience Telexistence anywhere. While advancing discussions on topics such as factory automation, logistics, retail, travel, and aviation with interested companies, including those in the space industry, TX inc will focus on businesses with concepts including “teleportation” for people with physical disabilities and the elderly, gaming, entertainment, and remote operations, and it expects to announce its first product around mid 2019.
“Although TX inc will push for the commercialization of telexistence as a startup company from here on out, we would be pleased if it manages to further its future-orientated research activities in collaboration with KMD. For example, KMD is engaged in research on medical treatments in remote regions and the field of bodily extensions which is focused on the “pre-seed” stage that anticipates the conceptualization of the technologies and products that are the “seeds” themselves. It would be ideal if a seamless process emerged whereby TX inc could take on the fruits of this research and work toward its commercialization” (Associate Professor Minamizawa).
Such collaboration is only possible because TX inc has inherited KMD’s DNA and the strength to “create through viewing things from multiple perspectives like business and technology.”
Telexistence robot Telesar V. This technology was transferred to TX inc and development is under way to commercialize it.