Kentaro Yoshifuji, 27, created OriHime five years ago while a student at Japan’s prestigious Waseda University. He later established Ory Laboratory and showed off his robot at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The 20 centimeter-tall OriHime could be a beacon of hope for people confined to their beds from disability or illness.

Kentaro has suffered from emotional and physical ailments since he was a boy. In fact, he was unable to attend school for three years when just a boy. His mother became worried that he may become withdrawn and decided to get him involved in a local robot competition. His victory got him so excited about robots that he enrolled in a technical high school and fell in love with programming. Working from the early morning until late at night, he developed a device to stop wheelchairs from tipping over and one prizes in a number of competitions – even globally. Even though he was still in high school, he began to receive special orders.

He developed an interest in artificial intelligence. Remembering his solitude during his times being sick and stuck at home, he wanted to build a robot that he could interact with and pass the time. However, he began to question his approach. Can passing time with a robot fulfill the needs of human interaction? What if he had been able to use the robot to attend school? Could a robot act as an avatar for someone stuck at home?

OriHime was born from the desire to help people shut off from society to re-enter and enjoy interactions with other people.

The little robot is controlled by tablet or PC. A live video stream shows the world from OriHime’s eyes and two-way communications are achieved via microphone and speakers. OriHime’s head and arms can be moved by the user. While the movement is limited, it does help people relate better than typical teleconferencing.

Kentaro’s assistant, Yuta, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a traffic accident when he was a boy, now uses OriHime to remotely attend lectures with Kentaro – even though he lives in another part of the country.

Starting this week, OriHime will be available for rental to businesses and schools.


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