Many of us dream about chucking our "day jobs" and starting a business that would allow us to focus all of our time and energy on something we really love - something we have a deep, deep passion for. For most of us, it's just a dream. But Yuki Nakagawa decided to stop just dreaming. She, and her group, gave up their "day jobs", and have committed all their time and energy to making RT Corporation the leading robot school in Japan, and eventually perhaps the world.
Starting a new business is always risky. That's doubly true when the market you center your business around is just starting to grow and gain public awareness. It takes a lot of courage, focus, and determination to succeed. And, it's very clear that Nakagawa-san and the RT employees have what it takes.
Even here in Japan, the birthplace of Robo-One and other world class robot movements, it's still very early days. In many ways, it's like the Menlo Park area in Northern California in the late 1970's when hobbyists turned business people were just starting to prove that personal computers really were possible, and might eventually become mainstream. Once again, it's the experimenters and hobbyists that are leading the revolution, only this time the location is Japan, and the rallying flag isn't a PC, it's a Personal Robot.
Nakagawa-san has a vision. She firmly believes robotics is the way forward, and that a lot of the innovation and change will take place here in Japan. She also recognizes, from personal experience, that getting started with biped robots is a challenge for most people, even people with a lot of technical background. It requires getting familiar with concepts and techniques like servo mechanisms, linkages, controllers, remote controls, and software. Most people with a interest in robotics can quickly understand and master the concepts, but they usually need some help, some advice, some encouragement, and some training.
Nakagawa-san (second from left) and some of the robot enthusiasts
that gather at RT to exchange ideas and pit their robots against each other.
With that in mind, Nakagawa established RT Corporation, just a few minutes walk from the Akihabara JR train station. The company serves primarily as a training school for people that want to build a biped robot. The current class schedule offers regularly scheduled two day courses that take the student through the entire process of constructing, adjusting, and understanding how to program the Kondo KHR-1 robot. The course is extremely comprehensive and totally hands-on. And, it's getting high marks and kudos from RT students that include a large cross-section of the population including young and old, male and female, from all walks of life - not just geeks.
Another main objective that Nakagawa-san has for RT is to serve as a resource and focal point for the robotics community here. She learned from her students and friends how much latent need there was for a place where people can gather to share common interests, techniques, learnings, and just be with others that have a similar dream.
RT is rapidly becoming known as a center for robot builders
experimenters and enthusiasts. Some of the folks we met
this particular Sunday evening at RT traveled all the way
from Osaka (about 400 miles by train) just to participate.
To support that objective, RT has it's own regulation Robo-One ring that it makes available for entrants, and others, to use in preparation for competitions. It also organizes practice sessions where you can have your robot actually try its moves against another robot instead of a water filled PET bottle at home. When the Robo-One J and Robo-One 9 competitions took place in Tokyo last month, RT stayed open late at night just so people could use their ring to practice and prepare for the events. And, RT has put on really interesting special interest meetings from time to time that we'll report more about in later posts here on Robots Dreams.
The Japan Tent team is only one
of many Robo-One competitors that
used the RT practice ring to prepare
for their battle in the ring, and proudly
wore the RT rabbit sticker.
RT also sells robot kits and accessories via their school and the RT Online Shop, including a novel robot arm or claw that was featured on the popular Make website.
The 'Armatron'-like robot claw developed and marketed by RT
RT Corporation Website (English)
RT Corporation Website (Japanese)
Robot Arm (Claw) Developed By RT Looks like Armatron on steroids!