Murata cheerleader robots: stability, sensing, synchronized dance – waiting for open innovation and APIs?

Murata and its robots

Murata introduced their newest Cheerleader robots in a press event on September 25, 2014 in Tokyo.
Purpose of the robots is brand building and advertising of the company’s components and capabilities.

Watch the Cheerleader robots dance synchronously here:

Murata Manufacturing (村田製作所)

While Japan’s eight electronics conglomerates stagnate in both revenues and income for the last 15 years, many of Japan’s electronic component manufacturers are thriving, as explained in detail in our report on Japan’s Electronics industries.

It is maybe not a coincidence, that many of the most successful electronics manufacturers are located in Kyoto, including Murata Manufacturing (村田製作所) – away from the politics of Tokyo.

Ceramic capacitors are at the core

At the core of the business are monolithic ceramic capacitors with a 35% market share globally. A single typical smartphone includes about 700 such ceramic capacitors, a laptop computer about 800, and a tablet computer or TV set about 600, and a car about 200.

Overcoming commoditization and maintaining pricing power by achieving overwhelming global market shares

For most manufactured electronic components, Murata is able to achieve overwhelming global market shares, e.g. 35% for monolithic ceramic capacitors, 70% for ceramic filters and resonators, 60% for radio connectivity modules and 95% for shock sensors.

Globalization

While company culture is strongly determined by Kyoto entrepreneurial traditions, Murata has 14 companies in USA, 13 companies in Europe, 27 companies in Greater China, 17 companies in the rest of Asia, and 30 companies in Japan. For our detailed analysis and comparison with other Japanese electronics companies, read our report on Japan’s Electronics industries.

Cheerleader robots highlight components and communication modules and “3S” competence: Stabilization, Sensing and Synchronization

Cheerleaders robots are a group of robots, bodies are balancing on rolling balls, and their bodies are equipped with motors to drive the balls, position and balance sensors and communication modules to synchronize the robots’ motion.

Murata “3S”: Stabilization, Sensing and Synchronization

Murata cheerleader robots dance in sync
Murata cheerleader robots dance in sync
Yuichi Kojima, Senior Vice-President and Deputy Director of Technology and Business Development Unit, and Koichi Yoshikawa, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications present the robots
Yuichi Kojima, Senior Vice-President and Deputy Director of Technology and Business Development Unit, and Koichi Yoshikawa, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications present the robots
Murata Boy, Girl and the Cheerleader robots
Murata Boy (ムラタセイサク君 = Muratseisaku-kun), the Murata Cheerleaders, and Murata Girl (ムラタセイコちゃん= Murataseiko-chan) (left to right)
Yuichi Kojima, Koichi Yoshikawa, Murata Boy, Murata Girl, and the Murata Cheerleader Robots
Yuichi Kojima (Senior Vice-President and Deputy Director of Technology and Business Development Unit) and Koichi Yoshikawa (Senior Manager, Corporate Communications) present Murata Boy (ムラタセイサク君 = Murataseisaku-kun), the Murata Cheerleaders, and Murata Girl (ムラタセイコちゃん= Murataseiko-chan) (left to right)

The bigger picture: Murata’s robots, the big wide world, and open innovation

As presented by Murata today, the cheerleader robots, Murata Boy and Murata Girl, are closed stand-alone systems, essentially for advertising and branding the company’s products.

SoftBank, on the other hand, is working to create a developer community around its Pepper robot, and SoftBank’s SPRINT subsidiary is planning to sell Pepper in the USA from 2015. Pepper has been developed for SoftBank by the company Aldebaran, founded by Bruno Maisonnier.

Google has acquired a range of robot companies, and is developing self driving cars.

In the USA, the DARPA Robotics Challenge is driving competition to develop robots.

iRobot has a program for developers.

LEGO switched from a closed “waterfall” model for developing the LEGO Mindstorms system to an open innovation model with huge success.

There is a huge contrast between these robotics programs which are community based, aim to create developer communities, develop API’s (application develop interfaces) and in some cases use open source software – and on the other hand the Murata robotics program, which seems to be a closed program creating one-off closed robot systems.

I believe that Murata’s robots could create much more global impact, if they would move from a corporate branding exercise to a platform for developer communities. In my view, Murata’s Cheerleaders – if they could talk – might shout out for being opened up. Imagine the creativity which could emerge from school classes or students programming the Cheerleaders via their APIs or SDKs.

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