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PlayStation inventor begins new profession making robots for no pay, Technology News, ETtech

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By Pavel Alpeyev and Yuki Furukawa

Ken Kutaragi, the legendary inventor of the PlayStation gaming console, is taking over one of many hardest jobs in robotics. And he’s getting paid nothing to do it.

The founding father of Sony Corp.’s gaming enterprise is the brand new chief govt officer of Ascent Robotics Inc., a Tokyo-based synthetic intelligence startup. Kutaragi, 70, needs to make reasonably priced robots that may safely transfer round and do bodily work alongside people in factories and logistics facilities, and goals to have a working prototype in a few yr. He mentioned he receives no wage to avoid wasting treasured capital.

“The Covid-19 outbreak has turned the old argument about robots taking our jobs on its head,” Kutaragi mentioned in his first interview since taking the helm in August. “It’s pretty clear now that if we want to arrive at a new normal, we need more and more robots in our daily lives.”

The business veteran is obscure about how he plans to perform this, aside from to say partnerships can be key to shifting ahead. Ascent has labored with Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. on a robotic arm that may decide components out of a jumble utilizing a single digital camera as enter. It’s additionally growing autonomous driving software program in collaboration with an unnamed Japanese carmaker. The firm makes use of a mixture of knowledge from sensor-studded Lexus hybrids cruising Tokyo’s streets and simulations the place the algorithms are skilled to deal with so-called edge-case situations.

The problem is that he’s making an attempt to mix two applied sciences which have to this point over-promised and under-delivered: autonomous driving and collaborative robots. The world’s largest industrial automation corporations together with Fanuc Corp., ABB Ltd. and Kuka AG have struggled to develop the marketplace for machines that may work alongside people. At the identical time, automobiles that may drive themselves appear to be perennially simply over the horizon.

“If you are looking to combine robotics and mobility, you need someone in charge who understands technology,” Kutaragi mentioned. “We are thinking globally, not limiting our sights to Japan.”
Kutaragi has a monitor document of fixing tough technical and enterprise issues. He began his profession at Sony within the 70s, engaged on among the electronics big’s most profitable tasks together with liquid crystal shows and digital cameras. In the 90s, he revolutionized video gaming by pioneering the loss-leader mannequin of spending billions on growing cutting-edge {hardware} after which recouping prices via content material licensing offers. Kutaragi additionally demonstrated a eager sense of expertise developments, famously transport the PlayStation 2 with a DVD participant and spurring the adoption of the brand new laser disc expertise.

Since leaving Sony in 2007, he has sat on the boards of e-commerce big Rakuten Inc., app developer SmartNews Inc. and GA Technologies, which runs an AI-powered actual property listings web site. Kutaragi has served as Ascent’s outdoors board director since 2018 and took over the CEO publish on Aug. 26. He owns about 22% of Ascent, which he acquired from founder Fred Almeida who has left the startup. Masayuki Ishizaki, who preceded Kutaragi as CEO, has develop into the corporate’s chief working officer.

Founded in 2016, Ascent has raised about $18 million to this point and employs about 50 engineers, most of whom are foreigners. Kutaragi declined to say how a lot runway the corporate has left and whether or not it plans further financing.

“If we don’t do it, someone else out there will,” Kutaragi mentioned. “Management is tough, but that’s how it was with PlayStation too. It’s something I’m good at.”

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