“MOTOROiD, stand up!” As if waking from a slumber to respond to the call, the machine’s chassis gyrates and slowly brings itself up off its sidestand to stand upright on its own. With a beckoning gesture or call from the rider, MOTOROiD moves forward, and sometimes rotates its chassis to snake left and right as if engaged in a friendly frolic with the rider. Despite being a human with a machine, the scene looks more like a dog—albeit a very large one—and its owner going for a leisurely stroll, with a sense of intimacy and mutual trust.
The show visitors crowded around the stage were mesmerized by MOTOROiD and their imaginations likely began to run wild: “In the not-so-distant future, we may actually see motorcycles become this advanced.” It was a showstopping sight at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2017.
The primary technologies comprising MOTOROiD are an image recognition AI system for recognizing the rider’s face and gestures, Yamaha’s exclusive AMCES (Active Mass Center Control System) self-balancing technology, and a haptic human-machine interface (HMI) that wraps around the hips and is aimed at fostering non-verbal communication between rider and machine.
What the development team had in mind for the exterior covers was to convey a more direct, lifelike physical sensation, with a soft but firm feel that seemed like it could emit body heat upon touch. Within the limited amount of time available, the design team searched for the right direction to go in to realize that idea but also sought how to express what made the machine uniquely Yamaha. How would the rider and this all-new “living machine” come together? What would the ride be like and what kind of enjoyment could be found through it? The team eventually arrived at an answer.
They would not simply design some external covers; they would re-conceive the idea of the vehicle as a “testbed” to instead be a motorcycle that moves autonomously in order to create an all-new kind of rider-machine relationship, and thus begin the design process from the layout of the machine itself. They concluded that visually expressing the numerous advanced technologies and features equipped on the bike would be the best way to illustrate the unique style of Yamaha, i.e., the Jin-Ki Kanno* of a next-generation machine.
Thanks to next-generation technologies, a motorcycle that can communicate with its rider almost like a living creature has finally appeared. MOTOROiD has the potential to make an array of all-new user experiences possible, like approaching when beckoned with a gesture or sensing the rider’s movements and offering steering support accordingly. When there is mutual understanding and communication between a rider and the machine, the machine transforms from an object into a partner. MOTOROiD has been wholly designed to create that kind of relationship, in not only its colors and shapes but also its functions and movements.
MOTOROiD’s interface to facilitate such user experiences is aimed at deepening Yamaha’s Jin-Ki Kanno ideal and holds the potential to bring it to more users. A rider’s skill has always been a determining factor for experiencing rider-machine unity, but providing more interactive communication and electronic control of the machine can now bring a similar if not the same experience. The principal idea is to someday have the machine support the user—who remains in control—but do so ensuring the rider never actually notices that support, helping to maximize the fun of operating and controlling a motorcycle. Motorcycles of the future could evolve from being objects into partners along for the ride. This is one direction put forward by the designers with MOTOROiD that Yamaha may move toward in the future.