Journey Towards Ph.D 2006 – 2015
From acknowledgement of the dissertation 2015
It was 2005 in Los Angeles, where professor Tetsunori Kobayashi and I met for almost the first time. We were in a party hall for a reception of SIGGRAPH, an international conference on computer graphics and interactive technologies, coincidentally standing next to each other. I had just graduated from the school of literature, majoring in psychology and media studies, dreaming to become sort of a visual media director. He said, “You’re a creator, aren’t you? When you create something by yourself, you might put your philosophy in it. Research is exact the same thing. We, engineers or scientists, put our philosophies into our products.” In my hotel room at that night, I could not sleep overnight, staring at the ceiling and recalling the conversation. A few months later, I would find myself at his office and ask for entering the graduate school to join his research group. “Alright,” said the professor, “Now I trust you. It means I’d go around with your adventurous journey. You promise me that you’ll show me your own philosophy in the near future.” Almost ten years passed. I am hereby submitting a product representing my ten-year philosophy to keep the promise.
“When you create something by yourself, you might put your philosophy in it. Research is exact the same thing.”
In the summer of 2007, the very first prototype of multiparty conversation facilitation system was developed. I still remember the moment that ROBISUKE generated the first spontaneous action, “How about you?” addressing me to ask for my opinion. We were excited and showed the professor a video sequence of the interaction. He was staring at the display without saying anything for a while, and finally said he, “Get other faculty members to join us now. This is a very interesting moment.” In June of 2008, we brought ROBISUKE to the Care Town Kodaira, an elderly care facility for the first time to show a demo of NANDOKU quiz game playing with elderly people. ROBISUKE’s action and utterances did trigger everyone’s big laughs. The conversation continued about an hour until the moment when we stopped the system because all the utterance data we prepared was used up. We all were feeling that something socio-psychologically and technologically important was occurring right there. In the end of November of 2009, we finally created our new platform, SCHEMA, which was a successor of previous legendary Waseda robots: ROBITA, ROBISUKE, KOBIAN and HABIAN. Human conversation has been always fascinating and inspiring me. Such unintentional phenomena in our daily lives has deep science in it. I have been exploring it day and night with these robots.
Destination of A Youthful Journey
Each moment was unforgettable. I could never achieve them alone. There are so many people who have given me great advises, contributed ideas through discussions, and hacked codes for the projects. First of all, I would like to thank again professor Tetsunori Kobayashi, who has given me a chance to start this grand journey. His words always led me in the right directions. Also, I would like to thank the thesis committee: professor Yasuo Matsuyama, professor Tatsuo Nakajima and professor Mikio Nakano for the long and tough review and judgment process. Their comments and suggestions have been so very helpful and invaluable. Professor Machiko Kusahara, an advisor of my undergraduate degree, as well as a great curator, media artist and educator, inspired my future carrier combining arts and sciences.
I cannot thank enough Shinya Fujie, a great leader and collaborator throughout projects. I could not achieve anything without his insights, knowledge and experiences. Tetsuji Ogawa and Teppei Nakano have gave me their personal and professional advices. Shinsuke Akaike developed an early facilitation system on ROBISUKE in 2007. Hikaru Taniyama largely contributed the SCHEMA platform development in 2009. The initial version of the SCHEMA QA was developed by a collaboration with Yushi Xu, a visiting researcher from MIT CSAIL in 2010, and its automatic sentence generation system was developed by a collaboration with Akihiro Saito. Iwao Akiba helped me a lot for modeling and developing the facilitation strategy. There are many other contributors at the Perceptual Computing Group: Hiroki Tsuboi, Kosuke Hosoya, Atsushi Ito, Yusuke Kinoshita, Masanori Kikuchi, Eisuke Soma, Moemi Watabe, Azusa Todoroki, Kenshiro Ueda, Tomoki Hayashida, Motoi Omachi, Naohiro Tawara, and many other students. And the field experiments were able to be conducted thanks to Kaoru Nishikiori, a care manager of the Care Town Kodaira.
Next, I would like to thank mentors worldwide. Professor Justine Cassell at the Articulab, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University hosted my visit in 2014. The collaboration with her and the ArticuLab team was so much exciting and was a great opportunity to think about my own research in larger contexts. Professor Giorgio Metta at the iCub Facility, Italian Institute of Technology hosted my visit in 2013. I believe iCub is one of the best cognitive robot platform. I was so fascinated by the sophisticated system created by Europe-wide excellent research communities. Professor Carolyn Rose at the Language Technology Institute, Carnegie Mellon University mentored my SIGDIAL paper.
I also would like to thank co-founders of WIZDOM (Waseda University Integrated Space of Wizards, Digital Oriented Manufacturers): Akihiro Hayashi, Atsushi Enta, Jun Nakagawa, Kosuke Kikuchi and Taiki Watai. The multi-disciplinary activities with them fueled my energies of creation.
This research has been supported by the following grants: Grant-in-Aid for scientific research WAKATE- B (23700239) “Development and Evaluations of Multiparty Conversation Activation Systems (2010-2012),” WAKATE-B (25870824) “Facilitation Strategy for Multiparty Conversation Robots (2013-2015),” International Research and Education Center for Ambient Soc, Waseda University Global COE Program (2008- 2010), Microsoft Scholarship (2009), and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Strategic Young Researcher Overseas Visits Program for Accelerating Brain Circulation (2013-2015). TOSHIBA corporation provided the speech synthesizer customized for our spoken dialogue system.
Finally, I thank my family: my father Toshiro, my mother Tomiko and my sister Tomoko, who have all stood by me through the best and the worst times. And I especially would like to dedicate this thesis and doctoral degree to my grandfather Shoji who passed away in 2008, the biggest supporter in my life. He should have been very glad at my accomplishment. My uncle Shoichiro Saito also has been another big supporter.
This is a destination of my youthful journey and a beginning of new one. My wife Hiroko has been always encouraging me to enjoy the whole process. We now begin a new journey far beyond today.