The robotics fashion creator, Kyunkun, speaks of her wish to make a world where wearing robotics for fashion is completely natural. With the presentation of her self-made wearable robot creation, “Metcalf”, as well as her work in the production team that brings “Orphe”, a pair of smart shoes that operate via an app, and her exhibition at the SXSW music and technology event in Texas in March, Kyunkun is a creator gathering a lot attention. We asked Kyunkun, who is currently studying mechanical engineering while putting her skills into fusing fashion and robots, her story.

Wearable robot “Metcalf”
A robot that is worn on your back. Without hiding the circuit board she loves, Kyunkun shows us the things she likes as a fashion statement.

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Smart shoes Orphe
Smart shoes that emit light and noise in accordance to sensors and LEDs built in its soles. Kyunkun is currently working with the production team.

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Contributor Wanted!!

 

“The love of robots and the desire to be close to them is like a fetish”

-To begin with, why do you make robots?

Kyunkun: Because I wanted to become a person that makes robots since elementary school. From that time all up until now, I’ve wanted to become a developer.

-When you say you’ve wanted to be a developer since elementary school, that’s rather devoted of you!

Kyunkun: That’s right, because I liked Astro Boy. I kind of looked up to Doctor Tenma.

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-Among people that want to run cake shops and other things, it seems unexpected that you would choose to do robots.

Kyunkun: In any case, I really liked robots. I wanted to create something I liked, so I thought I would like to work as a developer.

-What was the first time you actually got to experience a robot like?

Kyunkun: When I was younger, my family often took me to go to the science museum, so that was the first time. My family also tends to like making things and art.

-I’m sure there are various kinds of robots, but what made you interested in specializing in “wearing” them?

Kyunkun: If there is a dress with a design you like, you start to want it, right? For example, if your favorite type of dog is printed on some clothes, you start to want it, right? It’s exactly like that; I thought, “I would like to wear robotics”.

kyunkun-interview-exclusive-05

-I see. To start with, you saw things from a fashion point of view. Like it’s natural to put on what you like.

Kyunkun: Because I like robots, I wanted to be in a place as close as possible to them. When I thought of doing that, “wearing” them was the easiest answer.

2014.5 Maguro Sushi Fuku「まぐろすし服」

2014.5 Maguro Sushi Fuku「まぐろすし服」

2014.9  Paradise Lost「失楽園」

2014.9 Paradise Lost「失楽園」

2014.11  THE 2ND PROCESS TO UNION

2014.11 THE 2ND PROCESS TO UNION

-To like robots and to want to be as close to them as possible is a rather strong feeling, isn’t it?

Kyunkun: Yes, I think it’s like a fetish.

-It would be nice if a time comes when people can wear Metcalf and walk around outside!

Kyunkun: Once in a while, I wear it outside and walk around, even now (laughs).

-What kind of response do you get?

Kyunkun: When I wear it abroad, people often say, “That is so cool!”. And when I say, “I made it!”, they say “that’s super cool! I want one!”, etc. In Japan, though, people don’t say much to me (laughs).

– How do you bring it abroad with you?

Kyunkun: I bring it in pieces (laughs). I put it together at the hotel I stayed at.

-When you say put it together, how much time does it take?

Kyunkun: If you keep making it for a long time, you get tired (laughs), so if you work about half of a day, it takes two days altogether.

-That’s a long time!

Kyunkun: Well, I eat snacks as I do it (laughs). Also, I love using a screw cutter!

-What is a “screw cutter”…? 

Kyunkun: When you turn the screw, there is a groove where the screw enters, right? I love making that groove. That’s why Metcalf is made entirely from screw cutting. There are methods to make it without the screw cutter, but I like using it (laughs). My friends called me the “Screw Cutter from Hell” (laughs). So you could say that takes a ton of time.

-Taking more (?!) time than necessary (laughs). But hearing you talk about that, it made me feel this is without a doubt fashion. For example, liking a particular button, or choosing to wear only high-waist shorts, etc, it’s the exact same kind of thinking.

Kyunkun: In a sense, yes, but in my case, because I like screw cutters (laughs).

-By the way, how long did Metcalf take you, from conception?

Kyunkun: This one took one month. But it’s not like I try to spend one month to do all this. I decided to go to SXSW one month before this journey, so after that I made it so that I would make it in time. But usually it does takes about one month.

-I didn’t think you were making them in such short and intense intervals! By the way, what was the very first robotics fashion item you made? 

Kyunkun: The first one was my first year of high school. It was a bustier adorned with circuit boards from junk items. From my second year, I made clothes that lighted up, and from third year, I made clothes with an Apollo space suit motif. I think these are also robotics fashion.

2012.8 「宇宙服」

2012.8 Apollo space suit motif「宇宙服」

—In relation to that, for robots you place more value on their fashion sense rather than their features, but do you think about adding functions?

Kyunkun: I’ve like machinery since way back, so I love the fact that machinery have functions. But I thought investigating just that wouldn’t be good. So for that very reason, I decided to focus on the fashion aspect, with the functions being something that should be there by default. So, for that reason, I would like to add more and more functions.

-At the moment Metcalf has no such functions, but you mean you would like to add to it?

Kyunkun: Yes. Because right now there is nothing added to it, I would like to add more and more sensors and make it more interactive.

-For example, what kind of things?

Kyunkun: If things are left the way they are, it will run into things, so I would like to make it automatically avoid people when they get close by. I want to think about such safety features from now on.

 

“Experiences at SXSW 2015” 
—It appears your first exhibition was the one you had abroad at SXSW2015. Why is that?

Kyunkun: When you exhibit in Japan, there are many instances of people pointing out the possible real uses for the item, but abroad it may be because of what in Japan would be known as “openness”, but they say things like “Cool!” “I want it!”. I also wore Orphe, and was happy when many people asked me, “Where can I buy that?” They don’t see it as an unrealistic exhibit item, but as a product they can buy.

-When others see your product as something obviously buyable, it must be a relatable feeling that makes you happy. Are there any other exhibitions that you saw that come to mind?

Kyunkun: NASA’s booth was very interesting!

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—What kind of things were they displaying?

Kyunkun: Models of artificial satellites, etc. Also, they gave me a lot of things (laughs). Like a space calendar and stickers. They also gave me an artificial satellite paper craft. The design of the exhibition space was so elaborate and interesting. There was a large earth balloon floating near the ceiling. And there was a real astronaut suit!

—How was it?

Kyunkun: I had seen an astronaut’s suit on pamphlets before, but it was my first time seeing the real thing….! I was moved and took so many videos.

—It must be pretty bulky.

Kyunkun: Rather than clothes, it’s more like a mecha suit.

—When you say “wear mecha”, perhaps there is something close to that that you made?

Kyunkun: Yes, originally I had made a robot that was designed after an astronaut suit.

—Are you interested in space?

Kyunkun: Yes. When I was in elementary school, I was in what was called a “Space Youth Group”, and we did workshops and went and stayed overnight at places (laughs).

-By the way, is there any technology you think that is interesting right now?

Kyunkun: Rather than interesting, the one thing I want to see in person right now is a battery that can be folded.

-Batteries can be folded?

Kyunkun: Just like paper, you can fold it and it won’t rupture. Although I haven’t seen it for myself, so I don’t know. I think it’s ground-breaking! For me, the problem of batteries important.

—Why?

Kyunkun: When you make devices wearable, a battery that ruptures can harm people. So that’s why a battery that is safe, that is strong against impacts, is incredibly important. I am interested in batteries that are very safe.

—In researching more about wearable devices, are there any other things you would like to look into more besides battery problems?

Kyunkun: Wearables involve both hardware and software, but I am just too in love with hardware, so I do just that, so I think I would also like to do software.

“Watching anime after getting home!”

-Normally you must spend most of your time working on making robots, but what do you like to do when you’re not doing that?

Kyunkun: When I’m doing something for a long time I will stay up all night without going home, but when I do go home, I spend a lot of time spacing out while watching anime (laughs).

—So you also like anime.

Kyunkun: I go home to watch anime I’ve recorded (laughs). When I was making Metcalf, I was addicted to “Yurikuma Arashi” and “Prisim Paradise”. So I went home, watched Yurikuma and became relaxed, watched Puripara and became relaxed, and spent days like that, thinking, “I will come back here”.

—So you’re well-attuned with Japanese pop culture! 

Kyunkun: I like yuri (laughs). I also read BL, but recently I prefer yuri, because it makes me feel better (laughs). My parents were the kind that didn’t let me watch anime, so I used to think it was a bad thing. So, I used to not watch it at all, but in my later years of elementary school the interest exploded (laughs). Since then I’ve been watching a lot.

 

“I want a future with a certain type of society”

—Is there a future with a certain kind of society that you would like to be realized? From a close future, to a distant future.

Kyunkun: I want a distant future to come that brings a nearer future that makes us really excited. When we get to that distant future, even if it seems like the near future we see from now, at that time it will already be the near future, won’t it? Anyway, I would love it if a future came where wearable devices catch on. As for how to get it to catch on, I’m thinking about it.

kyunkun-interview-exclusive-29

—Is there anything in particular you are trying to make right now?

Kyunkun: For a project I am currently continuing, I plan on going to China and doing a live event soon. In a city called Shenzhen, that is said to be even more of a geek town that Akihabara. There, at an event called Shenzhen Maker Fair, I will be doing an interactive exhibit. So I will be doing preparation for that. Along with that, I think it is the time for me to brush up one of the projects I currently have.

*The event was during June 19th to 21st. See more pictures on Kyunkun’s Twitter!

—We look forward to your future creations, thank you very much!

Related links
Kyunkun Official site : http://kyunkun.com/
Kyunkun Facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/kyunkun90
Kyunkun Twitter : https://twitter.com/kyun_kun

Photo by Tsubasa Ishiguchi
Translated by Tanoshii Emily

Author
Ayaya
Ayaya

Been working in girls’ fashion magazines for a long time and am now the chief editor of Tokyo Girls’ Update. I have more expertise in Japanese teen fashion than anyone else (probably)! I’m a huge fan of the Revolutionary Girl Utena and Bakemonogatari animes.

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