Why this project?

Published by Siméon on

My PhD will take place in GVLab in Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology (TUAT), in Koganei, in the suburb of Tokyo. The subject will be about social robotics and the improvement of human-robot interactions thank to machine learning. During my final year project in the University of Cardiff, I got the opportunity to work on a close project: “Social robotics: Human-Robot Interaction Using EEG Signals and Head Motion”.

Why robotics?

I am interested in that field for many years, and more generally engineering. After my High School diploma (baccalauréat) in engineering, I started a classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles (cram school for enrolment in one of the grandes écoles), also in engineering. Then, I started mechatronic studies at INSA of Strasbourg. I chose mechatronics because it merges in a same system several facet of engineering. Robotics is a perfect example. It mixes mechanics, electronics, automatic control and computing. That symbiosis is interesting to me. Moreover, I like the idea to make the science fiction less fictional.

Sonny I, robot
Sonny from “I, robot”

That’s why I would like to improve human-robot interactions in my PhD, in order to get closer of the general mind about robotics (most of time, a movie outlook). Currently, the most common robots are in factory or for housework (hoovering or mowing). Very far from C3PO or Sonny! I wish to fill this gap. Hence, the robots could become partners, for example in retirement home, or as home helper.

I’m also interested in another field, that is getting closer to robotics recently; it’s transportation. More and more vehicles are automatised: subways, trains, plane and nowadays cars. It’s that kind of domain, that is trying to simplify life and to bring the future in present (as we can imagine it), I find interesting.

When I was an INSA student I was also a member of the robotic club of the school. Each year we build a robot from scratch to go to the French robotic cup. That contest gathers each year all-over France teams (mostly from engineering schools). Every year the theme changes. The robots have to achieve many actions, independently, avoiding disturbing the opponent, in order to earn points. That project is truly enriching; it allows student to improve skills in project management and to work on all the facets of robotics.

Moreover, after my graduation I was involved several times in the organisation of the Cup, e.g. as a referee this year. It is a good opportunity to look at the different solutions found by each team to solve the same problem. In addition, Eurobot contest (European version) takes place at the same time. Teams from all around the world can be met, even from Taiwan!

Why Japan?

Robot ASIMO (2005)

For several reasons, first of all, according previous paragraph, Japan is a world known country for robotics; specially for humanoid and social one. Hence, I will be able to swim in this robotic culture in Japan. During my PhD I would be, for example, able to work with the humanoid robot HRP4. Another well-known humanoid robot is probably ASIMO robot from Honda.

Then, the Japanese culture is, of course, one of the reasons. When I was in junior high school, I watched Detective Conan (Case closed). But I really started to learn Japanese in 2015, after re-discovering Conan. Then I wanted to discover Japan, first as a tourist and after as a PhD student. I gradually read more and more manga, such as Attack on Titans, My Hero Academia, Noragami or Zipang. Then, thanks to anime, I could teach my listening, and discover (in some of them) some aspects of Japanese culture. My two travels to Japan and my meetings in France also improved my interest for Japan and my project.

Japanese language also played a big part. Even if I am not very good in foreigner languages (and even French, my mother tongue 😅), I am interested in learning them (and in linguistic and etymology). I have a stronger interest when the langue is strange. It is the case of Japanese with kanji and kana. For the same reason, I started to learn Greek at 12 years old. Coming to Japan is a great opportunity for me to immerse myself in the language, with the hope to become bilingual 🤞!

Why a PhD?

My dual master degree at TPS Strasbourg was focused on research, and that is the reason I achieved my final year project in Cardiff University. However, after my graduation I was sure to follow in a doctorate. So, I preferred to not hurry stupidly in a PhD just after my graduation. Hence, I started to work, and discovered the professional world; and then have time to think about my future. Over time, the desire to do a thesis became clear and my choice was on Japan and robotics, quite naturally.

I tried the MEXT scholarship (from Japanese government) two times. Without success. Hence, I created my opportunity and decided to leave without a scholarship, in a first time, with my savings earned at work. The vast majority of scholarships are asking once the thesis started, I will try to get them there. I will certainly have to work alongside, but I do not want to miss this opportunity, at the risk of regretting it all my life!

Voilà, you know more about my project and history.

Categories: My PhD


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