Torakusu Yamaha established his company as a piano and reed organ manufacturer in Hamamatsu, the Shizuoka prefecture of Japan, in 1887. Today, the company’s logo is a trio of interlocking tuning forks. After World War II, company president Genichi Kawakami repurposed the remains of the company’s war-time production machinery and the company’s expertise in metallurgical technologies to manufacturing motorcycles [See our article: Japanese Motorcycling: the Early Days].
Composer and concert pianist Kevin Asbjörnson chooses Yamaha pianos for their bright, articulate, full-tone sounds throughout the entire range of piano octaves. “I also respect and support the Yamaha corporate philosophy of ‘creating Kando’ together,” he said. Kando is a Japanese word that doesn’t have a precise equivalent in English. “Kando is something that inspires the heart and spirit, an emotional impression or sensational feeling that touches the soul.” It’s with this spirit of kando that Yamaha created the Yamaha Motor Innovation Center in December 2016 as the company’s new base for design. This was of course after the death of their long time design director, Kenji Ekuan [Read our story on Kenji Ekuan here], whose GK Design Group was solely responsible for Yamaha’s motorcycle design from around 1959 through 2014! In that year, Yamaha opened its first design studio headed by Akihiro ‘Dezi’ Nagaya. Less than a year after the Yamaha Motor Innovation Center opened, it unveiled the MOTOROiD electric motorcycle concept at the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show, in a fitting legacy to Kenji Ekuan’s brilliant grasp of the human relationship to the motorcycle, and his love for dramatic, erotic shapes.
According to Yamaha, its aim was to “create a new-generation motorcycle in the unique style of Yamaha, so that when the rider settles into the racer-like riding position and grabs the handlebars, it provides a sporty and exciting riding experience regardless of the person’s individual skills or athleticism.” The world seems ready for this bike!
What lies beneath?
The 479-pound MOTOROiD is equipped with high-precision balance control via artificial intelligence and autonomous technology, and it can sense its own state and adjust its center of gravity accordingly to stand up off its kickstand and remain upright unassisted. It can also recognize its owner and move forward to meet him/her, as well as react based on its rider’s actions thanks to its human-machine interface (HMI).
Using an active mass center-control system (AMCES), Yamaha created exclusive technology to stabilize two-wheeled vehicles by using electronics to actively control the chassis itself and constantly optimize the vehicle’s attitude. By actively controlling the chassis itself, the optimum attitude for the vehicle can be constantly maintained, allowing the machine to keep itself upright when standing still or when moving forward.The machine’s attitude control is handled by rotating parts of the machine like the battery, swingarm and rear wheel around the AMCES axis that runs through the center of the vehicle in order to control its center of gravity.
During rotation, the battery moves either right or left, acting as a counterweight that enables the machine to maintain balance and remain upright at a standstill. The inner frame unit area rotates around the AMCES axis via electronic control.
What does all this tech mean?
Control Unit: This integrates and controls all of MOTOROiD’s functions and operations, from the image recognition artificial intelligence (AI) and inertial measurement unit (IMU) data to other various vehicle data. Thanks to high-speed processing, the unit can relay instructions to the entire machine for not only AMCES, but also the steer-by-wire system (electronic front-wheel steering inputs), kickstand, powertrain, HMI and more.
Inertial Measurement Unit: The IMU senses the machine’s lean angle, and consists of a gyro sensor that detects axis rotation and a G-sensor (accelerometer) that detects velocity in each direction. The IMU sends data to the control unit at a rate faster than once every 0.0005 seconds.
Main Actuator: The main actuator, which receives instructions from the control unit, rotates parts around the AMCES axis with high precision, thus controlling the machine’s center of gravity. Besides the main actuator, MOTOROiD has several other large and small actuators.
Image Recognition AI: A facial recognition system gives MOTOROiD the ability to respond only to its owner. It is also able to recognize gestures, making it possible for MOTOROiD to also respond to hand movements, such as using a beckoning wave or a raised palm to instruct it to start or stop moving. The system’s data is continuously sent to the control unit, where it is collected and used as feedback for controlling the machine.
Haptic HMI: MOTOROiD also features haptic (more commonly known as “force feedback”) devices. The haptic human-machine interface (HMI) works to provide a greater sense of unity between rider and machine as it contacts the rider’s waist and chest area, as if the owner is being embraced by the vehicle. These contact points are aimed at a more intuitive form of feedback and interaction between the rider and machine.