Japan


Railway operators in final phase of preparing for Tokyo Games

The Japan Times

Railway operators in the Tokyo area are in the final stages of preparations for the Olympics and Paralympics this summer. East Japan Railway Co., or JR East, is scheduled to open a new station on its Yamanote Line for the first time in 49 years in March. Takanawa Gateway Station, located close to a public viewing event site for the Olympics, is expected to be used by many passengers during the quadrennial sports event. JR East touts Takanawa Gateway as a "future station" that showcases cutting-edge Japanese technologies such as an autonomous security robot and a convenience store without shop assistants. By the end of this month, all train cars for the Yamanote Line will have space available for wheelchair users.


Nintendo no longer repairing Wii video game consoles

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

If you have a Nintendo Wii in need of repair, it may be game over for the video game system. Nintendo is no longer offering repairs for Wii systems in the U.S., the game maker says online. However, many issues can be resolved by following the troubleshooting steps on our support site," the company says on its customer support site. The video game company said Monday it is ending repairs for the game console in Japan as of March 31 because it has had trouble getting parts to repair the console. Several tech news websites including Engadget reported the announcement from Japan.


Incredible moment a British Paralympian swimmer takes her first steps wearing a robotic exoskeleton

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Incredible footage shows the moment a British Paralympian swimmer with cerebral palsy stands up and takes her first steps wearing a robotic exoskeleton. Grace Harvey, 21, was able to take the special walk with the help of state-of-the-art technology developed in Japan -- giving her a day she will never forget. In the video, the swimmer from Ware, Hertfordshire, smiled nervously as she took her'first' tentative steps. She went on to giggle when a bystander said'You're running, Grace.' Swimmer Ms Harvey holds the European record for the 200 metre (656 feet) Individual Medley and is presently the British number one in the 100 metre (328 feet) backstroke event. She is currently training in the city of Suzuka, Japan, ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics in August.


A.I.-powered voice transcription app Otter raises $10M, including from new strategic investor NTT DOCOMO – TechCrunch

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Otter.ai, an A.I.-powered transcription app and note-takers' best friend, has received a strategic investment from Japan's leading mobile operator and new Otter partner, NTT DOCOMO Inc. The two companies are teaming up to support Otter's expansion into the Japanese market where DOCOMO will be integrating Otter with its own A.I.-based translation service subsidiary, Mirai Translation, in order to provide accurate English transcripts which are then translated into Japanese. The investment was made by DOCOMO's wholly-owned subsidiary, NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Inc., but the size was undisclosed. However, the new round was $10 million in total, we're told. To date, Otter has raised $23 million in funding from NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Fusion Fund, GGV Capital, DFJ Dragon Fund, Duke University Innovation Fund, Harris Barton Asset Management, Slow Ventures, Horizons Ventures, and others.


AI helping Japan railway companies to combat problems with snow

The Japan Times

Japanese railway companies are turning to artificial intelligence to help tackle potential problems for their shinkansen bullet trains caused by accumulations of snow. West Japan Railway Co. is developing an AI system to gauge the amount of snow attached to Hokuriku Shinkansen trains that cut through Niigata, Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures adjacent to the Sea of Japan. The railway operator currently decides how many personnel to deploy for snow clearance a day beforehand, based on information from meteorological data providers and past experience, but it is often not very accurate. AI will gather data from images of trains that have accumulated snow while traveling, study weather conditions and predict the number of personnel necessary for clearance work. Test operations have proved positive so far and the system is set for full introduction next winter.


CES 2020 Trends and Wrap up - Connected World -

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CES 2020 did not disappoint if you were looking for IoT (Internet of Things), AI (artificial intelligence), and almost any connected technologies you could only dream about and perhaps a few you might have never imagined. Toyota announced Woven City, a sort of "living laboratory" at the foot of Japan's Mt. Fuji that will focus on developing and testing technologies in the realms of robotics, autonomous vehicles, smart construction and manufacturing, and smart homes. There were folding computers, like Intel's Horseshoe Bend device, a new EV (electric vehicle) in the form of Fisker's Ocean, and there was even the announcement that plant-based food company Impossible Foods would start making plant-based pork. If you missed the event, here is a more in-depth look at some overall trends and a few more of the highlights. Overall trends included smart transportation, encompassing autonomous vehicle technologies and EVs, as well as intelligent transportation and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) connectivity platforms.


AISense raises $10 million for AI transcription tool Otter

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There's plenty in the way of competition in the audio transcription market, which is estimated to be worth $31.82 billion by 2025. But AISense -- the startup behind speech-to-text service Otter -- has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the four years since its founding. Today the company confirmed to VentureBeat that it has raised $10 million in a round led by strategic backer NTT Docomo's Docomo Ventures, with participation from Fusion Fund, GGV, Dragon Dragon Fund, Duke University Innovation Fund, Harris Barton Asset Management, Slow Ventures, and others. This brings AISense's total venture capital raised to $23 million, following previous rounds totaling $13 million. As part of Docomo's investment, the Tokyo-based mobile phone operator says it's piloting Otter in Berlitz's English language classes in Japan.


SoftBank-backed CloudMinds slashes workforce amid cash burn: sources The Guardian

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TOKYO (Reuters) - SoftBank-backed cloud robotics and artificial intelligence startup CloudMinds is slashing its global workforce as it burns through cash after repeated attempts to list on the stock market, people familiar with the matter said. Headed by former China Mobile 0941.HK research whiz Bill Huang, money-losing CloudMinds is the latest SoftBank 9984.T portfolio company to lay off workers. The job cuts include in China, two sources said, where the bulk of the company's workforce is based and where it generates most of its revenues. All the sources declined to be identified because the information is not public. CloudMinds did not respond to requests for comment and a SoftBank representative declined to comment.


Otter.ai expands in Japan in partnership with NTT DOCOMO

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Otter.ai to Bring AI-Powered Meeting Note Collaboration Service to Japan in partnership with NTT DOCOMO Partnership includes Investment and Customer Trials of Otter's Real-Time Transcription Los Altos, CA, January 23, 2020 –Otter.ai DOCOMO made a strategic investment in Otter through its wholly-owned subsidiary NTT DOCOMO Ventures, Inc. and announced plans for its AI-based translation service subsidiary to integrate Otter's meeting note collaboration into its offering to provide highly accurate English transcripts translated into Japanese. As a part of Otter's customer engagement with DOCOMO the Otter Voice Meeting Notes application is being used on a trial basis in Berlitz Corporation's English language classes in Japan. Students use Otter to transcribe and review the content of lessons, click on sections of text, and initiate voice playback. DOCOMO, Otter.ai and Berlitz are expanding their collaboration in language education to verify Otter's effectiveness in the study of English DOCOMO is featuring Otter during demonstrations at the DOCOMO Open House 2020, taking place in the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition complex January 23 and 24, 2020.


ANA starts testing autonomous bus operation at Haneda Airport

The Japan Times

ANA Holdings Inc., the operator of All Nippon Airways Co., said Wednesday it has started testing a semi-autonomous bus that will transport passengers and staff working at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. The company will conduct the test with the electric bus capable of carrying 57 passengers on a 1.9-kilometer route through the end of this month, aiming to start trial operation later in the year. The vehicle, with level-3 automation, allows drivers to turn their attention away from driving and engage in different tasks. "As the Tokyo Olympics are approaching, we hope more passengers from around the world will see our latest technology," ANA Senior Executive Vice President Shinzo Shimizu said in a ceremony at the airport. In 2018, the number of passengers who arrived at and departed from the airport increased 2.1 percent to 85 million, according to Japan Airport Terminal Co. which manages the Haneda Airport facilities.