Tokyo firm offers chance to operate giant robot suit

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A boy fires smoke from the air cannon of the Skeletonics robot as developer Tomohiro Aka teaches him how to operate the robot during a hands-on event at Robot Ride, Inc. in Hachioji, Tokyo, in April.

A hands-on event that allows visitors to experience what it’s like to be a robot pilot is proving popular. Participants who have boarded the Skeletonics, a roughly 3-meter-tall robot suit produced by robot manufacturer Robot Ride, Inc. in Hachioji, Tokyo, have gotten a taste of what it’s like to be a giant.

When one gets into the Skeletonics and moves one’s hands, arms or legs, the robot moves accordingly. It has five fingers on each hand that can move, grab objects and shake hands. On the left hand, there is a trigger to fire the air cannon on the robot’s left arm.

At an event held at the company in late April, participants cheered the robot’s smooth movements and the powerful discharge of the air cannon.

“In the future, I want to become an inventor and make cool robots like Skeletonics,” said a beaming Shotaro Hoshiai, 6, a first grader from Koto Ward, Tokyo.

“I hope the children are able to feel how fun the world of manufacturing is,” said 33-year-old Tomohiro Aka, the developer of the Skeletonics.

Skeletonics is a robot that Aka, a graduate of National Institute of Technology, Okinawa College and the winner of the 2008 College of Technology Robocon national robot contest, began building with friends in 2010. He continued to make improvements, and the robot became popular through its appearance at events. But the number of events at which Skeletonics was asked to appear declined sharply due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the company started in-house events, which have proved very popular due to the unique experience, drawing a full house of visitors every time.

Daisuke Miyamoto, 47, the chief executive officer of the company, has a dream: “We would like to make our robots available not only for entertainment, but also eventually for use in disasters and other situations.”