Research Subject 2: Human City Interaction with non-human like robots

Yasuto Nakanishi Group

The environment in which people live influences their behavioral patterns and unconscious thoughts. When I moved from the Nara to Tokyo upon entering university, I was initially concerned about the lack of mountains in my surroundings. My friend from Funabashi, a flat area by the sea, disliked the hills around her university and chose to live in a town by the river when she had to live on the west side of Tokyo. On the other hand, my friend from the foothills of the Yatsugatake Mountains, said he felt nervous just driving through the bay side area and preferred an area with ups and downs. Having moved 15 times over the past 50 years, I realize that a change in one’s living environment not only affects one’s subconscious thoughts, but also changes one’s behavior patterns, such as shopping and commuting, and in the aggregate, one feels that a part of oneself changes. A famous Japanese business consultant, Kenichi Ohmae lists three ways to transform oneself: changing the allocation of time, the people one associates with, and the place one lives[1], each of which can be paraphrased as “changing habits,” “changing the human environment,” and “changing the physical environment.
One way to change the physical environment is through urban planning and redevelopment of city blocks, but the cost of such a way is huge due to the scale of space and time. Therefore, renovations that change the use of existing buildings and tactical urbanism that updates the meaning of place by placing movable furniture in city parks and parking lots, have become widely conducted [2][3]. The idea is not to construct a new physical environment, but to inherit, override, and overwrite the existing environment to create a new receptacle for new activities and actions with a short construction period and low cost. On the other hand, the vehicle as an industrial product with the ability to move had a great influence on architects as well as its use as a residence, as in the case of motorhomes and houseboats. An architect Le Corbusier, who said, “A house is a machine for living in,” designed the Unite d’habitation after World War II, a housing complex that drew its inspiration from luxury cruise ships[4] in the course of modernizing architecture. Archigram, a group of architects who proposed many virtual urban projects using technology in the 1960s, proposed the Walking City, in which the entire city was a large robot, and the Instant City, in which the equipment needed for the city was transported by trailers and airships and assembled within the existing city [5]. Le Corbusier’s 1930 urban concept “La Ville radieuse” can be called the starting point of modern urban planning made possible by elevators and automobiles, but such modern urban planning has been subject to various criticisms. In the first issue of the magazine they published, Archigram described their aim as “rejecting the norms of modernity,” but their proposal was to make it possible to reconfigure the functions of the city, their proposal is now being realized with the store-style automated vehicles. Vehicles and robots that create spaces for people’s activities are becoming capable of dynamically generating new physical environments.

Human City Interaction: generative environments composed of furniture robots or playground robots.

Yasuto Nakanishi Group’s research aims to inserts a physical environment on the scale of tactical urbanism into the city by generating a dynamic physical environment using furniture robots and playground robots as a way to provide new behavior chances. We design such a robotic space as to transcend the limits of our limited rationality by eliciting behaviors such as “I just happened to go to that mall and found a robotic amusement park” or “That parking lot is like a cozy park, so I stayed there longer than I should have”. Unlike humanoid robots, which have human-like bodies and can process natural language, the interaction with furniture robot or playground robot is nonverbal and unconscious, rather than interactive and conscious, and the shapes, movements, and arrangements that elicit behaviors that are described as “accidental,” “accidental,” “unintentional,” and “spontaneous”. Especially, for playground robots, we are developing the basic techniques to experience the amount of movement beyond physical movement by combining our original VR rides with images presented on a HMD.

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