‘The Moving, Talking, Synchronizing 1/8-Scale Tachikoma (Ugoku, Shaberu, Heiretsu-ka suru. 1/8 Tachikoma)’ is a new robot which became a trending topic on Twitter as soon as its production was announced last month.
I previously wrote about Tachikoma, the mascot character in Ghost in the Shell (Koukaku Kidoutai), when its production was announced, and I was lucky enough to get the chance to see this robot at AnimeJapan 2017.
The completed product will be delivered to purchasers starting in June, so until then, the robot is to undergo fine tuning. Nevertheless, I think it is fair enough to call the robot displayed at AnimeJapan 2017 ‘the released version’ for now.
The robot’s product development took a whole year! I had the chance to interview a PR staff member of Cerevo, the company which designed the product. Today, I would like to report on these rare experiences.
You can Touch and Talk to Tachikoma!
When I first saw the robot at the event, I was really surprised at how elaborately designed the product was.
In the original story, Tachikoma is known as a ‘Think Tank’, a tank with artificial intelligence, so one of its purposes is to be used as a means of transportation. However, the robot is designed to a 1/8 scale, so it is only the size of a puppy.
Still, it is such an exciting experience to actually see the speaking-and-moving Tachikoma in real life.
The Robot Not Only Speaks but it can also ‘Sing’…?
Although her voice seems to have changed since the anime’s broadcast, you get to hear over 600 lines recorded by Sakiko Tamagawa, the person who voiced Tachikoma!
I’m sure this will excite all fans, but the robot’s charms do not end there. On top of this, the fans can enjoy listening to rare lines which are deeply related to the story of Ghost in the Shell.
The robot can say the exact lines from the anime, and it can also do an impersonation of the Commander. When you say a title of an episode, it can even answer with the episode’s number! There are various lines that would definitely capture the fans’ hearts.
It would be really fun to have a lot of conversations with Tachikoma and check out what other lines it can say.
By the way, when you ask ‘Who invented you?’, the robot answers ‘Cerevo invented me.’
Also, this product can perfectly ‘sing’, just like the Tachikoma from the anime.
‘Completely Futuristic’: I got to speak with the moving, talking Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell:
At AnimeJapan 2017, although there was a slight lag when the displayed robot answered each question from the fans, a staff member explained that this was caused by the unstable internet connection of the event hall.
Does ‘Ghost’ Lie at the End of Synchronization?
One of the most important features of the 1/8-scale Tachikoma is its ability to ‘synchronize’.
This 1/8-scale Tachikoma can memorize new information about its surroundings by using its object recognition engine that is connected to a cloud environment. Then, it can share that new information with the other Tachikoma.
Tachikoma’s ability to ‘synchronize’ shares new information and experiences with the other Tachikoma, just like in the original story.
There have been many misunderstandings about this feature since the robot’s release announcement, so let me explain a little further. The 1/8 scale Tachikoma does not share the images taken by its camera with other Tachikoma; It only shares the information attached to the images. So you do not have to worry about your personal information leaking, even if the camera in your Tachikoma recognizes your face.
The user can make Tachikoma memorize information about objects that are recorded in the object recognition engine. For example, if you let Tachikoma recognize a cucumber via its camera, and tell it that ‘it tastes good with salt’, it shares that new information with the other Tachikoma.
Therefore, the user cannot make Tachikoma memorize information about objects that are not recorded in the object recognition engine. However, it has also been announced that this engine will go through updates, so there may be more objects recorded in the future.
In the anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Tachikoma’s ability to synchronize and what this ability could develop into (this ‘what’ is called a ‘ghost’ in the story) is a major theme.
The robot has the ability to synchronize, but it still does not have the aspect of ‘ghost’, so I asked a Cerevo public relations staff member whether the company is planning on realizing such an aspect in the future. The staff member answered, ‘If this robot becomes a big hit, we would like to consider it.’
The Robot’s Price: Is it Cheap or Expensive?
Although the robot has gained a lot of attention from fans since its first announcement, 150,000 yen is not a price that people can easily pay.
The Cerevo staff member explained to me that the robot includes multiple engines, motors for each part, and a camera, so its manufacturing cost is very high. Cerevo has put all their efforts to pull the selling price down to 150,000 yen.
When I asked about sales numbers, the staff member answered, ‘We have received many more orders than we were expecting.’
Although they did not have the accurate data on the purchasers’ age group, they told me that the majority of the purchasers were fans of the anime.
The Tachikoma Created by the Newest Technologies
In the booth of Production I.G at AnimeJapan 2017, the 1/2-sized Tachikoma was also displayed.
This 1/2-Sized Tachikoma communicating robot, which was produced by DMM and was invented by technical collaborations of companies such as Kayac, has the ability to talk and move around. Some of the robots have already been experimentally displayed at stores.
Although the development of the 1/8-scale Tachikoma and 1/2-scale Tachikoma have been constructed and operated under completely different plans, they both began from ‘Ghost in the Shell REALIZE PROJECT’, the project to realize the world of Ghost in the Shell by using the newest technologies. Therefore, the two products have undergone technological collaboration and information sharing.
1/2-Sized Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell can talk and move:
The Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell was released in Japan on 7 April. The newest technologies of our time have made it possible to realize the creation of Tachikoma!