Two years ago, a Japanese robotics company called Realize began its Ghost in the Shell Realize Project, with the aim of recreating aspects of the futuristic, technologically advanced world of Ghost in the Shell. This year they’re rolling out – literally – their first creation. It’s a half-size Tachikoma, the four-legged, self-aware spider-like blue robots from the manga/anime series. They gave a presentation for the press in Tokyo on December 22.
They’re admittedly a solution in search of a problem, but if you know you can do something outrageously cool, you don’t let a little thing like that slow you down. The Tachikoma (yes, the plural of “Tachikoma” is “Tachikoma”) are to have the half-sized bots used in stores for use as customer service. They will be able to greet customers and hand over their purchases, and can be controlled via customers’ individual smartphone apps. The app, Virtual Agent Tachikoma, lets you raise your own Tachikoma and give it the personality type and lines you desire. When customers go to the store, their in-app Tachikoma will synch with the in-store Tachikoma and transfer the personality. The developers stated that “as a result of safety considerations,” the Tachikoma will be not be completely autonomous.
Reo Matsumura, one of the developers, told journalists that maintaining the robot’s balance during movement was the hardest part so far. Looking at the technology used in creating F-1 cars gave him a jump start on this problem, and the Tachikoma benefit greatly from this. In this case the engineers had to make the design from the anime and manga work in real life, and had to be slavishly faithful to the original design or the public wouldn’t accept them, so had to find ways to make it work.
The project team explained that they wanted to “destroy the present state of affairs, where there’s no robot infrastructure,” and thought of how to “introduce the robot that users are requesting.” The estimated date of completion is March 2018. Sakiko Tamagawa, who voiced the Tachikoma in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, will record their lines. Until then, a model will be on display at the I.G. store in Shibuya Marui until January 15. It will then move to the I.G. Store in the Asia-Pacific Trade Center in Osaka until January 30, then elsewhere in Osaka until February 12.
It’ll be a while before the Tachikoma are running around on their own, but 2018 gives them time to do some heavy work on the AI, and possibly even iterate internal hardware once or twice to take advantage in new developments in cybertechnology.