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Aiming for a world without physical restrictions through the fusion of machines and humans|LIFEHUB Inc.

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The fusion of machines and humans is the future that many people dream of. The world depicted in many works, such as the Matrix, Iron Man, and the Ghost in the Shell animation, is approaching realization in the real world through the evolution of technology. However, there are various approaches to the fusion of machines and humans.

This time, in order to realize such a world, we are taking on the challenge of next-generation chair-type mobility. LIFEHUB Inc. We interviewed the representative, Mr. Hiroshi Nakano.

Aiming for a world without restrictions with next-generation chair-type mobility

Once again, please explain your company's initiatives.

LIFEHUB Inc. is developing next-generation chair-type mobility. This product is being developed targeting people with disabilities, and we aim to create a world where such people can live without any inconvenience. However, we are not only targeting people with physical handicaps. Our vision is to evolve the human body and eliminate physical limitations. As one of the means, we aim to create a mechanical body like next-generation chair-type mobility to replace or extend physical functions. In the future, I would like to create products that eliminate restrictions not only on the feet but also on the whole body.

Please tell us about your career and what inspired you to start your own business.

I've been interested in mechanical engineering since I was little, probably because my grandfather ran a mechanical company that installed assembly lines in factories. After graduating from junior high school, I entered a college of technology and majored in mechanical engineering at university and graduate school. As a field, he focuses on robotics and control systems, and obtained a doctorate from Tohoku University. After that, I joined Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. (currently Hitachi Astemo, Ltd.), where I was engaged in research and development of autonomous driving. In addition, I have experience as a consultant for a next-generation mobility venture, an analysis software company, and a company that conducts mobility research and development.

Since I was in elementary school, I had wanted to start my own mechanical company because I had seen my grandfather's work up close. At that time, I had a vague image of a mechanical system, but as I have come into contact with robotics a lot in my career, mainly mobility, I felt that there are actually more situations where robotics technology can be used directly to give people a sense of freedom. rice field. Driving a car gives people a sense of freedom. Feeling freedom means getting rid of physical restrictions. In addition to cars, there are powered suits, for example, but such products are not used all the time, but are currently used only for specific tasks such as nursing care and transportation. Therefore, I started LIFEHUB with the desire to update people's lives by developing products that directly affect people and can be used all the time.

Please tell us about the next-generation chair-type mobility that you are developing.

The next-generation chair-type mobility device being developed at LIFEHUB is a product that enables people with disabilities to live without feeling handicapped. In the future, we aim to create short-distance mobility that anyone can easily use.

Specific functions will be added one by one, but we plan to install four main functions: a function to stand up, a function to ride an escalator, a function to go up and down stairs, and a function to drive automatically. It is possible to provide free movement without depending on facilities. The product itself is still under development, and we aim to release it by the end of 2023.

Next-generation chair-type mobility (Credit: LIFEHUB Inc.)

I believe that the number of companies entering the electric wheelchair market is increasing. What are the advantages of LIFEHUB's products?

We believe that the three advantages of our chair-type mobility are "stylish design," "compact body," and "high value-added functional parts."

May I ask you a little more detail about the technology of the functional part?

As mentioned earlier, it has four functions. The stand-up function uses a gyro sensor to control the inverted pendulum, and maintains the stand-up state by controlling the front-rear direction of the wheels according to the center of gravity. There is also a function like the automatic braking of a car that utilizes the recognition of the external world by cameras and lasers.

In addition, the hardware part is also unique, adopting a mechanism that resembles a human foot. It's easy to understand if you imagine the state of standing on your knees, but when driving on four wheels, the feet and knees are on the ground, and when standing up, the tip of the foot is on the ground and the two wheels. run. In addition, when riding an escalator, it is possible to level the seat while maintaining stability by making it a four-wheeled state, and it is possible to go up and down stairs because it has the same structure as a human leg. It is rare that such multiple functions can be realized by one mechanism, and this mechanism realizes compactness.

Are there any difficulties you have faced since founding the company?

The financial side and the human side were difficult. I think both are issues for any startup, but in terms of people, there are not many people who can smoothly proceed with organizational activities and have the pinpoint technology we want. I struggled with the hiring part.

What are your thoughts on global expansion?

We have been conscious of global expansion since our founding, and we aim to expand in 2025. We are thinking mainly of the United States and Europe, and we plan to release a model designed for widespread use with the same functions as the first model scheduled to be released in Japan next year.

The reason for selling the popular version of this function is that it is necessary to obtain various approvals and licenses for global expansion. For example, in the United States, wheelchairs are classified as "medical devices" and require FDA approval. . Considering such a timeline for obtaining approval, we took the option of a popular version of the same product that had already been released in Japan, rather than entering with a product with new functions added.

Abundant team experience in organizing a group of engineers specializing in development

Could you tell us about the organizational culture and recruitment?

I think it's pretty calming overall. All of them are in the middle of the day, but the average age is in the late thirties. Compared to other startups, it may have an adult atmosphere. We also actively hold company events, such as holding parties in the office and quarterly closing parties. When funding is decided, we celebrate and hold welcome parties for new employees.

Regarding recruitment, we are looking for engineers, and we are hiring a wide range of embedded software, electrical and electronic communication systems, robotics, and mechanical systems.

What kind of people are you looking for?

Now that there are only a few people, it is very important whether you have the experience and technical skills that we want. In terms of non-technical aspects, we are looking for people who share the same values, who have a lot of challenging spirit, and who can take on new challenges without hesitation. Also, I think it's important to have a sense of fun.

How did you spend your school days?

When I was in junior high school, I was originally in the tennis club, but I wanted to get hands-on with computers, so I created my own engineering club and even made things in my workshop. I played tennis even after entering technical college, but there weren't many circles related to manufacturing, so I started my own circle here. There, I built an electric car and participated in the race, and I liked cars from that time.

Even when I was a university student, I participated in a student formula car competition called Student Formula, and continued to make cars. I also really liked racing itself, so I used to participate in bicycle races. I still like that kind of thing, and recently I've been participating in adventure races.

Do you have any tips on how to spend your days off and how to refresh yourself?

Basic outdoor activities include golf, adventure racing, and mountaineering. As for mountaineering, I do ice climbing and some pretty hard stuff. Speaking of adventure races, last year was the first time I participated. I participated in a race called "NISEKO ADVENTURE RACE" held in Niseko, Hokkaido, and came in 3rd place. Adventure Race is a race that goes around checkpoints based on a map and compass. There are sections for running, climbing mountains, riding bicycles, and rowing boats, but you can choose your route freely. In addition to strategic route selection, team management is also necessary as it is a team competition. I'm good at map reading and management, so it suits my personality, and it's very interesting with a high degree of freedom.

I also like cars, so I do kart racing and sometimes drive my car on a circuit. I also like winter sports and often go skiing and snowboarding. However, I have lower back pain, so it's been a bit tough lately, but my lower back pain may also be the reason for the development of this product (laughs).

When in doubt, challenge yourself. Bringing Humans to the Next Level by Bringing Humans and Technology Together

Could you give a message to startups in the pre-seed to seed stage?

If you haven't raised funds yet, I think it's important to act without hesitation. In the pre-seed stage, many people think that their idea may be subtle, or that they may not be invested even if they go to VCs, and they are self-sufficient before taking on the challenge and are unable to take action. However, I think that it is important to break down and grow once, because basically there is nothing to lose even if it breaks. If you've already raised funds, it's all about product development.

Also, the common point is to send a message anyway. I myself participated in a business plan contest called TOKYO STARTUP GATEWAY. It was a meaningful opportunity in many ways, such as being able to connect with a capitalist I have a relationship with. This kind of thing also started when I sent a direct message to the mentor. You may not get used to it at first, but I think it's a good idea to send a message anyway, even if it's a bad source.

What has contributed to the growth of you or your business?

Fundamentally, everything in my past has contributed to my growth and shaping who I am today. In the words of Steve Jobs, "Connecting the dots", if you do what you like from time to time, as a result, all of those things become the foundation, and the various things in your life. I think the dots will inevitably connect. For example, I have been involved in manufacturing and building organizations since junior high school, and I specialized in mechanical engineering at a technical college, and at university I deepened my expertise in creating formula cars and deepening my expertise. Because I have a lot of experience, I also have the experience of studying things thoroughly. When I got a job at a large company, I was able to see the completed research and development process, so I knew what I needed to do by subtracting it from the completed model when doing it lean. In this way, I believe that all my experiences are connected to where I am today.

Please tell us about your future prospects.

Currently, we are a company that produces short-distance mobility, but we are not looking only at the personal mobility market. There is the idea of human augmentation, in which humans and technology are integrated to extend their capabilities. LIFEHUB aims to be the leading company and infrastructure company for that purpose.

In order to achieve this, we are thinking of listing the next-generation chair-type mobility that we are currently developing and building a foundation as a company.

May I ask you more about the integration of humans and technology?

For example, connecting the brain and devices, connecting brain information to the Internet, or inserting artificial eyeballs to convert vision into AR, estimating hand gestures and operating the AR display. You may be able to. Also, in such a state, there is no need to carry a smartphone, etc., and luggage will be reduced, and you will not forget anything. Also, I think there are many ways to approach it, such as technology that simply raises physical ability. I would like to create a world without limitations by connecting people directly to the body, rather than using wearable devices, to extend people and connect them directly to the human body.

By the way, the movie "Andrew NDR114" left a strong impression on me about the fusion of machines and humans in this area, and that's what made me want to create the human body.

Finally, please give a few words to the readers.

If there are people who get excited when they hear that they will use technology to change people, I would love to work with them!

LIFEHUB Inc.
Address
Zabon Murakami Building B1, 3-2-4 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
CEO
Hiroshi Nakano
Website
https://www.lifehub.co.jp/
Careers
https://www.lifehub.co.jp/post/recruit
Daimori Sugiura
A third-year student at Tokyo International Technical Vocational University, majoring in IoT. After working as a writer for a major travel media company since high school, he was involved in the launch of educational media at a non-profit organization. After that, he has been active in the branding team of an AI media company and as a freelance web writer and SEO marketer. His areas of expertise are IT and outings.

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