Marek Michalowski, one of the Keepon robot developers and a co-founder of BeatBots was really enthused by the response at IREX, and the feeling was definitely mutual. The Keepon exhibit was constantly surrounded by fans that were obviously entranced by the cute little robots ability to recognize, track, and interact with them using its body language and movement.
Keepon is currently targeted at research institutes, companies, and other organizations exploring human interaction and behaviors. IREX was a perfect forum to meet potential users from all over the world, and to get feedback from a wide range of people across all age groups, cultural backgrounds and nationalities.
Since BeatBots is an extremely small, but also extremely talented, company, they couldn't justify the major investment required to do everything on their own. Instead, they have partnered with Kokoro Dreams, a subsidiary of Sanrio that is well known for its realistic female robots. Currently, Kokoro is responsible for the manufacturing and logistics for the Keepon robot, and the companies are also doing extensive co-marketing, like their joint exhibit at IREX.
Michalowski noted that the long term BeatBots strategic plan includes a lower cost version for the general consumer market, but the company wants to approach commercialization very cautiously and without compromising the robots performance and quality in the process.
According to the BeatBots website:
"The company was founded in 2007 by Marek Michalowski, a doctoral student in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and Dr. Hideki Kozima, formerly a Senior Research Scientist at Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) and currently a professor at Miyagi University. The two worked together on Keepon, a robot used for over five years in peer-reviewed research on social development and interpersonal coordination as well as in therapeutic practice for children with developmental disorders such as autism."
Just in case you happen to be one of the few that hasn’t heard of Keepon before, check out this video showing off the robot at its best in Tokyo and Akihabara.
By the way, the robot store towards the end of the video is none other than Yuki Nakagawa’s popular RT Corp, a ‘must see’ stop for any robot fan that has the good luck to visit here. You’ll find directions to RT, and other robot shops in Akihbara on the Robots Dreams map.
In addition to his ground-breaking work in robotics, Michalowski is also active in the so-called DIY tinkering, hackerspace, movement in the Pittsburgh area where he is based. We hope to connect him up with Tokyo Hackerspace during one of his frequent trips to Japan.