The “Working at Rapyuta” series celebrates some of the best minds at Rapyuta Robotics. Through interviews with employees, we bring you the real story that you won’t find elsewhere.
Kou Kikutake – Engineering Lead
In university, Kou majored in physics and conducted research in science and technology. After graduation, he worked in product development in the robotics industry and joined Rapyuta Robotics in October 2021. Kou uses his engineering experience in the robotics industry, as the engineering lead for the development team creating new products.
Enter a world of robots full of excitement and possibilities
I originally studied physics in university, not majoring in robotics. While I conducted basic research on science and technology in college, I have consistently been in the robotics industry since I became a working professional.
Robotics first captured my interest because I thought it would be useful to the world. Physics, which I was immersed in during university, was also interesting. But I wanted to directly impact people and I felt I can do that more with robotics than general physics.
It was a time when automation and robotics were emerging and I wanted to learn more about everything related to this exciting technology. One other motivation for joining the industry is that I was into automation games at the time. I was curious about recreating this world in real life and that curiosity pulled me into the robotics industry.
Rapyuta Robotics can solve the problems facing the robotics industry and Japan
Since I began working with robots, I have noticed a common problem in the robotics industry. Robotics is a complicated business with many things involved. Not only software, but also hardware, electricity, and mass production to bring the product to the market. It is not easy for a robotics company that makes only a single product to succeed in a big way.
Rapyuta Robotics’ ultimate goal is not to create a single robotics product, but to create an infrastructure or platform. This reduces the cost of product development and allows other users to create their own.
Rapyuta Robotics stood out to me because it was a company trying to solve the industry problems I was facing and because I shared the desire to realize a future where robots are commonplace.
What are the areas and responsibilities of a Robotics Software Engineer?
At Rapyuta Robotics, I am part of a development team that creates new products. The team consists of various people: the team owner who develops the product strategy, the project manager who manages the product, and engineering-related members, of which I am the engineering lead.
The software engineers on the team are responsible for the output of the product, including making the best technology choices. The most important mission of our team is to develop new products while giving feedback to our members throughout the process.
We recognize the costs and problems that arise when developing products and prepare valuable answers to them. By doing so, we improve the functionality of our platform and ensure that the next time we create a new product, the same problems will not occur.
How to have fun and create good products with a sense of speed
The difficulty and fun part of being an engineer at Rapyuta Robotics is that we do not just create one product and call it a day.
Our team is responsible for bringing the product to market. At the same time that we use our platform as a virtual user for development, we also have to think about how to create a successful product on the platform itself. For us, this is a constraint in a sense, but it is also an exciting part of developing products with ideas and perspectives that are a little different from the norm.
We are moving forward with new product development at a very rapid pace. We have a clear milestone and we are running toward it. Normally, we would have to stop many times to think things over and devote a lot of time, money, and resources. But at Rapyuta Robotics, we can focus on what is important and run toward our goals. I feel that this is a very challenging and exciting part of the project, including the time constraints.
Taking a robot out into the world and watching it work on its own in multiple locations without the involvement of the developers requires a completely different kind of engineering. The moment it is released into the world, it quickly exceeds the scope of what a single engineer can handle. Therefore, we have to be prepared for the scale of our products while at the same time building the right organization and structure. This is both difficult and very interesting.
Closing the gap between the world and the world I envisioned
Because the world we envision as Rapyuta Robotics is so grand and valuable, we are keenly aware that achieving it will not be easy. The company is in the phase of trying to reduce the cost of robot products and to understand what problems exist in the development of robotics products. Therefore, I think we are still in the stage of learning what problems exist in making our products.
Although we currently have the resources we need, it wasn’t always like that. When I joined the company, we had nothing, and to be honest, some things were different from what we had envisioned. I got to have the valuable experience of creating a product from scratch, with no base, concept, or core technology. This was incomparably better than anything I had ever done before and it led to my growth as an engineer. I would research the market, formulate a strategy, come up with an idea, and then give it shape. It was very exciting to define the product by myself.
Now that I have more team members and can run with the company’s support, I can reach my goals with even greater speed. The team I am on has only been in existence for less than one year and is a small, scrappy team. Each of us is working with an awareness of the scope of our responsibilities. We are creating products one after another that are getting the job done. Because each of us is clear about what we need to do and what we are aiming for, I feel that we are moving faster toward our goals. I am very excited that the world I envision will come sooner than I imagined.
The appeal of working as an engineer at a robotics startup founded in Japan
Japan has a tremendous demand for automation and robotics. There are many companies struggling and many people desire automation. So we are in a good position on the supply side and it’s rewarding to fulfill a need.
I feel that Rapyuta Robotics has a very good balance in the robotics industry and a good reputation. We have excellent engineers and are very advanced, but we do not have an environment that is highly competitive and grueling, as can be the case overseas. In one sense, the environment is very Japanese with a certain harmony. Everyone is running toward their goals, which I feel makes it very comfortable to work as an engineer.
Rapyuta Robotics is a start-up company, but it has a history of its own. We have a lot of people and have matured as a company. Of course, there are still steps to go before we can achieve our ultimate goal. We must keep running toward it. It is such a rare experience to be able to create a new product from scratch in an environment where we can utilize the knowledge, technology, and abundant resources we have accumulated throughout our history.
Although we are a small team, we have a good understanding among the various members, and we are united in running toward a single goal. Soon, we will see the robot we built from scratch in action in front of our customers.
We are looking forward to having you join us if you are interested in working together in such a dynamic environment.