Session 01 Tsunehiro Uno x Minori Takechi
Uno：Don’t you think that the technology is overused for the extroverts since smartphones spread? Like Facebook, or Instagram, yes they do have the power to change the world and unique cultures develop through the platforms. However compared to our childhood, the 70s and the 80s, I believe in those era fictions had much stronger effect. It brought people to the world of dreams and beautiful non-existing future fantasy world. Science Fiction, technology and characters were the guide which brought us to somewhere, not here. I personally sense that excitement in Gatebox.
Takechi：Wow! I am so happy and honored to hear that!
Uno：Just looking at the real world and doing business is not the only way that technology should be utilized. If you think about young Steve Jobs, he was deeply affected by the hippy culture, was totally into counter-culture and was not so good at communicating with people in his college. He was definitely a man living in the world of fantasy. Definitely I am also that type of guy too lol, but I believe that Otaku’s dream like element is what drives the change in the world. Sadly though, just copying the west coast in Japan, the next generation Steve Jobs will not be born. So, focusing on your fantasy or, “the truth, the goodness and the beauty”. Out of the three elements, “the beauty” is the aspect that should be absolutely focused. I think that there is too much spotlight on “the truth” and “the good”. I believe the drive that Jobs had toward technology is some sort of fetishism. There were only products that lack fetishism in current Tokyo, but now I encountered Gatebox which is an epitome of fetishism which made me extremely happy lol.
Takechi：Interesting lol. Now when did you first find out about Gatebox?
Uno：2 years ago, it was internet fad wasn’t it? Something so sick was released in the market. So expensive! Something like that lol. That was the first time. Plus, it was released from DMM.make which also made me excited.
Takechi：I was in DMM.make since it was opened. It was an open space but I secretly was developing the product to not to be found by anyone lol
Uno：I know that Japanese hardware startups definitely have interesting ideas and great products, but volume-wise it is not so large in reality. Personally, compared to companies in Shenzhen or Silicon Valley, it is difficult to win in a straight forward tactic. I believe that Japanese companies should compete by focusing more in the niche. In short, current Japanese hardware startups need to be crazier!
Takechi：So you are saying to get crazier!? lol
Uno：Yes! Go crazy! I am sure that Jobs was going crazy in the west coast lol.
Takechi：Talking about DMM.make in more details, when I first had Mr. Ogasawara（First producer of DMM.make and currently an angel investor）to see my prototype, I got a reaction from him saying that it is sick, I was very happy that he gave an extremely positive feedback.
Uno：I don't think that the Japanese hardware startup industry is comparable with the scale of Shenzhen or Silicon Valley unfortunately. Therefore it is important to make a strong presence by having a keen and unique sense, and there is no point of existing in the first place unless having an interesting imagination that comes from Japan's slightly unusual city, Tokyo.
Takechi：Japan is a country with much flavor and appeal culture-wise, and it is such a rare place to have numerous characters existing.
Uno：This is not only about the hardware industry, and is true among Japanese startups, but it is important to think of “only possible to create because it comes from Tokyo”. On that note, Gatebox hits the bulls-eye, which this kind of product will only be born from Tokyo, or to narrow it down, from Akihabara. In terms of culture and history, I think Gatebox is at the intersection of the West Coast Geek Culture and the Tokyo Otaku Culture. Without that kind of idea, new things will not be born from the island country of the far east. One of the character cultures, animation is a good example. Since Mr. Osamu Tezuka, who was fascinated by Disney began to make animations, and because he produced them on a low budget, he created Japan's unique animation culture. After half a century, it transformed and derived into various cultures. In the future, localizing the waves of impacts from the global world and adapting will be important. In other words, I think it will be a key interpreting new trends and generating secondarily creations. Reflecting back in history, Japanese cars follow the same journey. Japan is not the US so cars do not have to be large. Instead, better fuel economy and control becomes the focus. This kind of mindset. As a result of evolving with a unique Japanese perspective, they became popular in the world and were exported. Not only hardware industry but also startups in general, I think the key is how you can compete with the world with this kind of products with Japanese originality if you consider global development.
Takechi：Now I would like to discuss from the business perspective. From Uno-san’s eyes, how do you see and what do you observe about the trend of Otaku culture including Anime and Idol?
Uno：In this past decade, otaku culture has started to change drastically. The mainstream used to be fictional contents (2D), but now has shifted to real (3D). However in this 2 to 3 years, it seems that fictional ones started to gain more power. For example, when I talk about revenue generation of the contents, “Idol Master” comes right after “Arashi”, and a new force such as VTubers are now in the market. Mixing real (3D) and fantasy (2D) is the invincible, perhaps; although from business point of view, the structure where real stays the main focus is maintained. To be more specific, idol group exists first and to accelerate the drive, animation is there to bring moe feel then monetization happens in live performance. I believe this is the flow. The interesting thing is that Gatebox is trying to do this in a reverse order. Gatebox is bringing the fictional (2D) into a real world (3D) through a device Gatebox.
Takechi：Gatebox emphasizes on how to influence the real world, and the theme is how users can sense the feeling of living with a character. If we live in the same space, we think that we will be possible to get that impression by giving some influence to the room or extensity, so that the character turns on the light… that is why functions operating in a manner of household appliances are installed.
Uno：Understood. In fact, phenomenon of the fantasy two-dimensional world affecting the real world is already happening in various places. I heard that srory from Mr. Mamoru Oshii when I interviewed him; during the Gulf War, when young American soldiers were recruited and brought to the battlefield, they all acted like soldiers in the film. This proves that the image of the battlefield is influenced by movies depicted by Hollywood. Furthermore, the military base built from around the 90's is also influenced by the design in these films. Therefore in the twentieth century, movie was the largest common language. The 19th century is still a print culture, and the novelists were on the side that had the influence, but from the twentieth century, movies were born and television became widespread. Then athletes, film actors or actresses and musicians became charisma, resulting the biggest common language becoming films. Considering that the real world is changing under the influence of movies, dramas, and animations, the fact that the character existing in our daily life is clearly a natural journey. Actually, it is strange that it has not spread completely yet in the 21st century.