While standing in front of Shodai Kayama’s Yorishiro, a device chosen for the 2020 INNO-vation Program’s Disruptive Challenge, one can’t help but feel a sense of mysterious wonder. The clothes strung up on this hanger mimic your own movements. If you move your hand upward, the sleeve also extends toward the sky, as if it has a mind of its own. It’s a unique device that challenges what we know about communication between people and their clothing.
Kayama had previous work experience as a web engineer, focused mainly in software development for web services and applications. It was around that time that devices specializing in combining software and hardware, such as IoT, began to flourish. Kayama had an interest in cultures outside of Japan, so he took his studies to a graduate program in London. He was more interested in developing new forms of communication through hardware in the real world, rather than software used online.
The classes he chose during his master’s program dealt with interactive communication amongst people, as well as communication between people and objects. It was a program that allowed students to research new ways to create products and expressions that followed along with movements. It wasn’t just Kayama, all of the students in the program were using robotics technology and extended reality to search for a new method of interactive communication.
It turned out Disney animation had a big influence on his research during his time in London. When designing communication, it’s not uncommon to base the principles on animation theories. Although animation involves a lot of different factors, including narrative and world-building, Kayama chose to focus on movement. In Disney animations, characters such as Mickey Mouse are often animated to move so that their bodies squish and stretch. Even in Pixar’s intro lamp animation, these principles are put on prominent display.
“Disney cartoons tend to have an elasticity and stretchiness to them that becomes incredibly important in representing how they move. I thought this same principle could be applied to physical objects, not just for a degree of utility, but to create an interface with an abundance of emotion,” Kayama said reflecting on his time in university.
That’s when he had the perfect idea - clothing! He got to work creating the framework using wooden blocks and acrylic pieces cut out by a laser cutter, connecting them with servo motors, and covering the completed, mobile frame with clothing. By recording movement data with a motion capture camera and applying it to the framework, the clothing hung up began to move about seemingly of its own accord.
With this, the prototype of Yorishiro was completed. Kayama started receiving positive critical reception from those around him. Although he had created such a unique item, he was still struggling with deciding what sorts of needs it could fulfill, or just how exactly it could be used. Seeking to further progress the device’s development, Kayama applied for the INNO-vation Program.
In part 2, we’ll ask Kayama directly about his time in the INNO-vation Program.