Did you know that the Sony PlayStation turned 25 years old last month? That makes it two and a half decades of groundbreaking video game experiences that generations of gamers have discovered, experienced, and enjoyed. And we all have one man to thank for it — “the Father of the PlayStation” himself, Ken Kutaragi.
So where is Kutaragi now, twenty five years after leading Sony’s gaming business toward the creation of the landscape-changing PlayStation console? From establishing a lasting legacy in the world of gaming, he has now turned his attention to making robots.
It’s the career path that dreams are made of.
Granted, the kinds of robots that Kutaragi makes are not quite the ones we tend to find in our favorite sci-fi and action games. As the new chief executive officer of Tokyo-based Ascent Robotics, Inc., Kutaragi is focused more on creating practical automatons that are designed to perform tasks alongside human workers.
In his new position, Kutaragi aims to strengthen the notion that robotics is the way forward for modern industries, especially in light of the dramatic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has turned the old argument about robots taking our jobs on its head,” Kutaragi said, speaking to Bloomberg.
“It’s pretty clear now that if we want to arrive at a new normal, we need more and more robots in our daily lives.”
With Ascent, Kutaragi assumes the leadership role in a company that is renowned for artificial intelligence-operated self-driving cars, versatile collaborative robots (typically known as robotic arms), and other automation-centric applications.
Kutaragi wants to take on the challenge of bringing these two technologies together to create new solutions for modern needs. He is confident that his team of 50 engineers — hailing from all across the globe — is up to the task.
“If you are looking to combine robotics and mobility,” Kutaragi explained, “you need someone in charge who understands technology. We are thinking globally, not limiting our sights to Japan.”
Perhaps what’s most interesting about his new job is that he is taking on this crucial role without receiving any salary in return. As a startup that was established just in 2016, Ascent is still in its startup stages and needs every bit of help to save and maximize capital. Kutaragi, who joined the company’s board in 2018, is taking no share from the US$18 million that the company has raised so far.
Kutaragi left Sony in 2007 and has since dipped his toes in a variety of startup enterprises in Japan. He has served as a member of the boards of tech companies such as Rakuten, SmartNews Inc., and GA Technologies, as well as publishing house Kadokawa.