When Kentaro Yoshifuji was in high school, he was unable to attend classes in person for medical reasons. While he often spoke of the profound loneliness he felt during that period, the experience would eventually give birth to his company OriHime.
OriHime is a robot technology equipped with a camera, microphone, and speakers that allow users to see through its eyes and interact with others through gestures and voice communication. The robot is operated through the internet by smartphone or tablet.
Yoshifuji, known for his all-black, "Matrix"-style lab coat, set up the company in 2012. A robotics fanatic, he had invented a new mechanic for an electric wheelchair while still in school.
While the OrHime robot has many applications, including ones related to travel, business and learning, it is within the healthcare sector where its transformational power is most exciting.
Yoshifuji is especially keen to explore its potential for motor neuron disease patients. The OrHime technology includes a wearable device that captures motion from the user's eyes to input messages, which are then read aloud by the robot, and which would transform patient communications.