MIKATA GOLF PRACTICE ROBOT
Franchise Japan interviewed the president Takahara of MIKATA GOLF PRACTICE ROBOT and his partner, Golf Science Doctor Hoshiya, the developer of the golf teaching robot, about their vision for the future of golf practice.
＜Meeting Doctor Hoshiya and the effects of introducing the robot＞
President Takahara: Two years ago, I heard from a friend that there is an interesting person who has developed a golf teaching robot (GOLROBO). Although I had only just started my business, I made an appointment with Dr Hoshiya and went to see him. Dr Hoshiya had been involved in robot research and development and business planning at OMRON for about 25 years and started developing golf robots in earnest at his age of 40.
I was so impressed with the greatness of the GOLROBO developed that I decided to install a GOLROBO prototype in our own Takatsuki head office to see how customers reacted.
The lesson professionals on our staff were amazed by the robot theory and understood that it was a very innovative robot. Our golf practice lesson professionals were also amazed by the robot theory and found it to be very innovative.
We immediately explained about GOLROBO to our members and had them use it, which was well received.
I myself used the GOLROBO for three months at a pace of 30 minutes every two days to train my body to remember the basic movements required for swinging.
This training has helped me score below 100 in a short period of three months.
Familiar members who I enjoyed golfing with were also surprised that my score was below 100, saying ‘it is unbelievable’.
＜World's first golf teaching robot developed by Dr Hoshiya: GOLROBO＞
Dr Hoshiya: A proper understanding of GOLROBO requires an explanation of cognitive scientific research into the coordinated control systems of brain and body movements.
I wrote the conceptual content of this robot in my book “Putting gets better with science!”, which is a compilation of a 65-month series of articles I wrote for Golf Digest (a monthly magazine), which I briefly explain. The movement imagined by the cerebrum is transmitted by the cerebellum as a delicate movement command to the muscles, which execute the movement with high precision and reproducibility.
Golf is a sport that demands repeatability. Robots are far superior to humans when it comes to reproducibility. GOLROBO is one of the saviours of amateur golfers, especially golf beginners, as it allows them to quickly learn the movements in a correct swing.
Amateur golfers suffer from the anxiety of making mistakes because they do not hit their shots well – driver, irons and fairway woods.
What can be done to eliminate this anxiety?
The most important thing to achieve this is to “learn the correct swing movement with GOLROBO, understand how to hit the ball correctly and be able to control the ball”. GOLROBO is one of the shortcuts to solving this point.
＜The relationship between cerebrum and cerebellum＞
Dr Hoshiya: Many people have experienced that it is difficult to hit the ball as well as they would like, even with the guidance of a lesson professional.
I have just briefly described the coordinated control system of brain and body movements in cognitive science. The cerebellum understands the language and visualizes the outline of the movement. Next, commands from the cerebellum move the body. In other words, in order to send delicate commands to move muscles and execute precise movements, it is necessary to build a model in the brain (movement program) that gives these commands to the cerebellum.
By giving the correct movements externally and continuing to do this repeatedly, a movement program called the cerebellar brain model of the correct swing movement is built up. If you train repeatedly with a robot that swings a golf club while controlling the correct trajectory and posture, a cerebellar brain model (movement program) of the correct swing movement is built up in the cerebellum.
This allows you to learn in a short time and painlessly what trajectory to swing the club, what face direction and where to hit the ball when you practice hitting the ball. This enables you to hit the ball more accurately in a much shorter time than with a traditional lesson by human.
Furthermore, the swing mastered by the cerebellum with GOLROBO is a ‘mistake-reducing swing’, which allows you to control the ball as you wish. When you can control and hit the ball accurately, your score will improve, you will enjoy golf more, and you will have more time to practice and actually get out on the course.
The golf score is made up of the following components:
15% on the first shot, 5% on the second and third shots, 20% on the approach, 10% on putting, 30% on course strategy/score making ability and 20% on management ability. This means that future golf school lesson professionals should spend more time to lessons that improve course strategy/score making and management skills.
＜Why promote 24-hour unmanned indoor golf practice space＞
President Takahara: There is a great affinity between unmanned indoor golf practice spaces and GOLROBO. We have great lesson professionals, but from a management perspective, as in any other industry, the shortage of talent, and the effort, time and cost of recruiting talent is a major challenge.
The number of indoor practice spaces equipped with golf- simulation is currently increasing rapidly. Practicing by means of simulated golf has the advantage that a realistic ball trajectory image can be obtained and at the same time the necessary data on ball trajectory can be quantitatively obtained. Recently, an increasing number of outdoor driving ranges are equipped with such ball trajectory measuring devices. However, this can be of some help to some advanced golfers, but even if the numerical data is understood, the golfer’s worries about how to improve it become even greater.
Golf beginners and novices need a system to further improve their golfing skills, and for this they need lessons. However, strengthening lessons comes with issues such as a shortage of talent and rising labor costs.
The ‘unmanned indoor golf practice space’ with GOLROBO and golf simulation in place solves these problems of golfers and the challenges of the operator.
＜Towards the future>
Dr Hoshiya: Golf reached its second golden age in the 1970s, when it evolved from a spectator sport to a do-it-yourself sport. Furthermore, golf stars such as Jumbo Ozaki emerged and the golf population grew towards the bubble period, reaching a high of just over 10 million.
Over the past 30 years, the golfing population has halved and is now less than 7 million.
I want to work diligently with President Takahara to develop world-class technology and build a leisure tourism industry that will once again become a new pillar of the economy in Japan. An increase in the golf population is also linked to economic growth.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed people’s lifestyles. In the future, we would like to promote golf in various ways by combining the golf practice space with campsites and glamping for example to increase the number of golfers to 30 million.
This, of course, also requires an affinity with inbound travel. We are also envisioning the development of new spaces in places where people gather, such as airports and malls, and in collaboration with fitness clubs and sports gym as well as Simulation golf where you can enjoy famous courses.
Right now, we are looking for people to join us in realizing our dreams.