Dialogue with Masaharu Kawamori: Designers who don’t talk about practicality can’t make imaginative robots

Masaharu Kawamori changed my imagination of the word "imagination".

Before, when I heard "imagination", most of the people who came to my mind were the kind of people who like to be imaginative and full of romantic ideas.

Masaharu Kawamori showed me that there is a kind of imagination that is born from the ultimate pursuit of rationality and practicality.

This 63-year-old famous mechanical designer is still active in animation, games, toys and other fields, and insists on doing "things that no one else has done."

Recently, Masaharu Kawamori officially joined the consumer robot company "Robosen" as a "product creation partner".

Taking this opportunity, we also had a chat with He Sen, trying to understand the understanding of design from this genius who always has new ideas.

Imagination bursting out of extreme rationality

Masaharu Kawamori is often referred to as the "deformed Kawamori" because he has designed a large number of classic deformed mechas in the past 40 years of his practice.

The most well-known among them is the variable fighter VF-1 Valkyrie in the sci-fi animation "Macros".

Most transforming robots may only be able to transform between humanoid robots and machines (airplanes, cars, etc.).

Kawasen's VF-1 Valkyrie has three forms: fighter, half-human mech, and humanoid mech.

▲ Three forms of VF-1S Valkyrie

Kawamori's original half-humanoid mecha form (GERWALK) was inspired by his knee-bending action while skiing. I thought it would be interesting to add this to the mecha.

With the idea of ​​this form, the next step is of course to make the specific design more in line with the actual use of the fighter and make it "reasonable".

Why does a fighting chance need to have legs?

After entering the GERWALK state, the main engine of the aircraft is deformed into the legs of the mecha, so the standing feet can quickly jet to multiple angles, and can quickly take off and land vertically in the atmosphere.

▲The GERWALK state is very agile when running close to the ground in the city

At the same time, this form can also walk on the ground sensitively, and can adapt to many different combat terrains.

On the one hand, it well complements the application scenarios of the other two forms of VF-1 (the fighter form is excellent in air combat, and the humanoid mecha is better in ground combat), on the other hand, it also makes the fighting scenes in the animation more diverse and exciting.

He Sen, who originally studied mechanical engineering, told us that he has high requirements for mecha deformation:

If you just design a fictional robot, just stay at the appearance level, and don't endow it with practical functions, you will feel a bit of a fly in the ointment.

Therefore, even with deformation, the wheel will have the function of the wheel, and the engine will have the function of the engine, and the deformation is realized on this basis. I really like giving meaning to mechanical structures.

When working on the "Macros" project, because the toy dealer called for a humanoid robot, Kawamori wanted to go to the extreme, let's make a super huge transforming robot, and let the space battleship transform into a humanoid robot!

▲ The space battleship can also transform

However, pursuing rationality, he couldn't bear the setting of others using giant robots as weapons–they are so big, they are shining targets when they are hit.

That being the case, He Sen felt that that would only make the enemy extremely huge—so there was an even bigger alien villain.

Speaking of space battleships, although no one on the market did such a transformation at that time, it was not enough for Kawasen.

To do something that others really can't think of, he decided that this battleship is not an ordinary battleship, there is actually a city inside!

▲ The city in the space battleship

Moreover, a Chinatown must be added to it, because Kawamori himself grew up in Yokohama, Japan, and there is also a Chinatown there.

At this level, I believe that no one else can think of it.

As important as mechs are stories

In Macross, music is another signature element.

You could even say it's more powerful than mechs.

After all, the key to winning the war in the end is not force, but singing.

▲ Lin Mingmei singing in the flames of war

He Sen has previously stated that he attaches great importance to the different worldviews between stories and stories:

For example, in "Macros", instead of relying on strength and weapons to end the war, relying on songs, this is also to change the inherent impression brought about by the world view of other works.

In Hesen's view, music is the easiest medium to cross borders and cultures, and it can break barriers.

As for the protagonist Lin Mingmei who defeated the enemy with singing, her birth as a singer can be regarded as a "coincidence".

It was mentioned above that there will be a Chinatown on the battleship in the story. During the creation, He Sen saw the Chinatown clerk Lin Mingmei wearing a cheongsam, and suddenly thought that this character would be very good if she was a singer.

Therefore, there is the setting of Lin Mingmei who has changed from a restaurant clerk to a singer who pursues her dream of singing.

The song of the same name in the theatrical version of "Macros" "Does Macross Remember Love" hit the No. 7 sales performance on the Oricon Oricon chart at that time, and became a classic song in the minds of many movie fans.

Later, Lin Mingmei was considered to be the first generation of virtual singer.

Yes, what we are still popular now, Kawasen came up with it in 1982.

In the following "Macros" story, the music style of "Space Singer" will change with the advancement of the times .

Whether it is rock and electronic music in the 1990s, or an idol group in the millennium, "Macros" has been keeping up with the times in the presentation of music while maintaining the original concept of "using music to maintain peace". Even ahead of its time.

▲Basara singing rock in "Macross 7"

It is also Hesen's pursuit of originality to keep innovating while conforming to the worldview of the story and the situation of the real world.

AI, the new "reasonable weapon"?

Just as we see that ChatGPT's language strengths make machine-machine conversations more natural, AI can be said to be a new "reasonable weapon" in the application of robot design.

Just like the Sony Aibo robot I made before, combined with AI, it can become a real pet, a partner close to people, and integrate into people's lives as a living "creature".

This time, the cooperation between Hesen and Lesen will also focus on AI robots.

Before further sharing Hesen's vision of AI robots, we need to know about Lesen.

Lesen's most outstanding product is the Optimus Prime robot that can transform itself.

Although figures that can manually change the shape have existed for a long time, I believe that when any "Transformers" fan or mechanical enthusiast sees Optimus Prime who can complete the transformation on the spot for the first time, his heart will be a little bit excited.

According to reports, to achieve the stability of the robot, Lesen is behind the core technologies such as high-dimensional constraint equation deformation structure design, multi-element alloy and polymer materials, heterogeneous high-precision intelligent joints, and biped adaptive control high-order algorithms. .

In the interaction, the speech recognition software applied by Lesen is also based on AI and intelligent algorithms. It performs well in fuzzy semantic recognition and intelligent semantic recognition, which can help robots better recognize user instructions.

Last month, Lesen also announced that it will introduce AI large models to realize functions such as multimodal input, content understanding and instruction generation.

These robots and AI technology foundation are very good creative support for Hesen.

Without this kind of technology and strength, it will be difficult to achieve difficult and bold development.

At the same time, Hesen also believes that people's expectations for transforming robots are different from those in the past:

For the deformation 10 years ago, more consideration was given to the extent to which the deformation could be achieved smoothly. Now Lesen has begun to realize automatic deformation.

This kind of automatic deformation and two-way interaction with people will be more and more expected.

Moreover, Hesen has high requirements for its own design as always:

I hope to trigger and deliver a kind of creativity through my own design thinking. For example, if you only buy one toy, you can enjoy two or more functions, so as to realize the scalability of this function and the appropriate combination of the environment. mechanism and shape.

In other words, in addition to being fun, it has to be "reasonable", knowing how to display the appropriate form or function in different environments, which sounds like a job for AI to make judgments.

At the end of the interview, Kawamori gave us a preview of the next new work.

In this cooperation with Lesen, in addition to designing AI robots, he also hopes to extend the content of the creation story:

If I can develop and create things together, including the world view, I will be very happy, and it fits my personality.

In the future, we will create an unprecedented and unique world view, and have a new AI robot character, and I am looking forward to it.

Perhaps, with AI robots, we can realize our "childhood dream" even without wearing MR head-sets in the future-let robot partners with smooth deformation and free conversation come into our lives and create new adventure stories together.

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