DeAgostini Japan has released robot kits before using their unique magazine/book/kit format, but it seems like they are determined to take the game to a totally new level with their repackaging of the Himeji Softworks Jo-Zero robot developed by Nakamura-san.
Nakamura, the ROBO-ONE champion humanoid robot builder responsible for creating the amazing transformer robot is capable of designing small bipedal robots that challenge the state of the art. And, he has a heart of gold. He regularly stages events in his home city of Himeji to attract and delight youngsters (and oldsters) into robotics as a hobby and career.
But, like most small start-ups, his company is constrained by limited investment capital, cash flow, and available management resources. Yet the potential market for humanoid robots like Jo-Zero is huge, and extends globally - not just in Japan. Luckily he was able to form a relationship with DeAgostini Japan so that they could supply the marketing, sales, and distribution resources that were so sorely needed to make the robot a success.
DeAgostini's marketing approach is rather unique. As we have mention in previous posts, they take a complex kit, like Jo-Xero, and repackage it into a large number of component sets. Each set of parts consists of one step in the robot assembly process and comes with very detailed, professionally illustrated, construction plans. While very young children might run into difficulty, the plans include enough diagrams and explanation to make assembly, testing, alignment, and operation straight forward for most buyers.
The company packages the components in a specially designed box that includes a glossy magazine filled with articles on related topics, like the ROBO-ONE movement, the history of humanoid robotics, and the like. And, to make the purchase more palatable, they keep the price of each "magazine" issue relatively low - typically around 2,000 yen.
Of course, if you total up the cost of all the issues necessary to complete the robot it costs much more than just buying the robot off the shelf as a kit. But, in that case all the background material, articles, and other extras wouldn't be included. More important - DeAgostini knows that in many cases it's the parents, or more often grandparents, that are making the purchase for their children and grandchildren, so the company sets the price accordingly.
We mentioned that DeAgostini seems even more committed to ROBOXERO than they have to prior robot products. This time around they are doing a full court press. In addition to the normal advertisements and promotions, they have also created a very active ROBOXERO Twitter channel. ROBOXERO has his own Facebook page.
And, starting on Thursday, February 17 at 20:00 (JST) they will kick off a regular weekly ROBOXERO video program via Ustream. For fans unable to watch the program real-time, they will be posting the episodes on both NicoNico and Youtube. Really dedicated fans here in Japan can download an app for their smart phones and watch the action while commuting on the train or subway.