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Panasonic to trial self-driving home delivery robot in February

The Japan Times

Panasonic Corp. said Monday it will start trials in February of home deliveries by a self-driving robot in a residential area in Kanagawa Prefecture as the coronavirus pandemic has raised demand for services with reduced or no human-to-human contact. Panasonic plans to test the feasibility of the delivery service using an autonomous robot that can travel at a maximum speed of 4 kilometers per hour with items for delivery loaded inside. Developed by the Osaka-based firm, the small robot will be used in an area designed to showcase advanced technologies under a joint project with local authorities and other firms. Self-driving robots have gained renewed attention amid the global coronavirus pandemic, which has raised the need for some people to avoid human-to-human contact and stay at home. The virus outbreak has led more people to shop online and have food and other items delivered to their homes, but a labor shortage in a range of industries including parcel delivery has been an issue in Japan.


Fujitsu pledges to help customers tackle the climate change crisis

ZDNet

Fujitsu has announced it is committed to helping customers achieve their objectives around addressing social challenges, such as climate change, and will do this by focusing on developing seven core technologies: 5G, Internet of Things, blockchain, hybrid cloud, cybersecurity, computing, and artificial intelligence. "It is an urgent task to address climate change to achieve net-zero CO2 emission by 2050 … all stakeholders must come together to address this issue on a global scale," Fujitsu CEO and chief digital transformation officer Takahito Tokita said during his address as part of Fujitsu's digital ActivateNow conference on Wednesday. "Until recently at Fujitsu, our action of climate change has been to focus on making our products and data centres energy efficient, but now we are acting as a transformation partner. "Using our strength in technology, we will help your business and wider society find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We will work together with stakeholders to realise a carbon-free society and mitigate climate change." He pointed to how the company has already been working with the UK Environment Agency to develop a cloud-based flood warning system so residents living in hazardous areas could be directly alerted. Meanwhile, an agreement between Fujitsu has been signed with Japan's Kawasaki city in Kanagawa prefecture to create what Tokita described would be a "sustainable community". "This is about building a society that is resilient to disasters.


Some 12% of young Japanese people play video games for 6 hours or more on days off

The Japan Times

JIJI – Approximately 12 percent of Japanese people aged 10 to 29 play digital and video games for six hours or more on their days off school or work, a survey showed Wednesday. The survey also found that those who play games for long periods tend to show signs of addiction, such as not being able to stop playing despite feeling mental and physical distress or negative influences on their studies or work. The fact-finding investigation was conducted with health ministry support by the National Hospital Organization Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo. The first survey of its kind came after the World Health Organization decided to recognize gaming disorder as an official medical condition. Some 85 percent of survey respondents played digital or video games in the past year, with around 80 percent using smartphones to play games.


Multilingual translation tools spread in Japan with new visa system

The Japan Times

The use of multilingual translation tools is expanding in Japan, where foreign workers are expected to increase in the wake of April's launch of new visa categories. A growing number of local governments, labor unions and other entities have decided to introduce translation tools, which can help foreigners when going through administrative procedures as they allow local officials and other officers to talk to such applicants in their mother languages. "Talking in the applicants' own languages makes it easier to convey our cooperative stance," said an official in Tokyo's Sumida Ward. The ward introduced VoiceBiz, an audio translation app developed by Toppan Printing Co. that covers 30 languages. The app, which can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablet computers, will be used in eight municipalities, including Osaka and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, company officials said.


Japanese doctor wages war on internet addiction, advising rehab for online gamers

The Japan Times

How much gaming is too much gaming? This is the question Japan's pre-eminent addiction expert, Dr. Susumu Higuchi, is trying to answer as he treats people whose lives have been destroyed by video game addiction. Online gaming addiction has become the fastest-growing form of addiction in the 21st century, and it's the most vulnerable people -- children -- who mainly fall prey to its psychoactive effects, Higuchi says. As head of the Kurihama Medical and Addiction Center in Kanagawa Prefecture, which started the country's first program for internet addition in 2011, Higuchi is rolling up his sleeves to tackle a scourge that has eaten into the vitals of our society. "This isn't just about Japan, it's happening all over the world," Higuchi said in a recent interview.


Neural Style Transfer: Creating Art with Deep Learning using tf.keras and eager execution

#artificialintelligence

In this tutorial, we will learn how to use deep learning to compose images in the style of another image (ever wish you could paint like Picasso or Van Gogh?). This is known as neural style transfer! This is a technique outlined in Leon A. Gatys' paper, A Neural Algorithm of Artistic Style, which is a great read, and you should definitely check it out. Neural style transfer is an optimization technique used to take three images, a content image, a style reference image (such as an artwork by a famous painter), and the input image you want to style -- and blend them together such that the input image is transformed to look like the content image, but "painted" in the style of the style image. For example, let's take an image of this turtle and Katsushika Hokusai's The Great Wave off Kanagawa: Now how would it look like if Hokusai decided to add the texture or style of his waves to the image of the turtle?


The future of work in the age of AI

#artificialintelligence

In his famous Foundation novels, written in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov imagined something called psychohistory, a discipline which used statistical modelling and a detailed understanding of the mind to predict the future. To Asimov, this idea seemed so futuristic that he placed it 20,000 years in the future. Data scientists are using the latest AI to model and predict the behaviour of crowds and other large groups of people in ways that help authorities plan the provision of services. In Japan, for example, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police is using AI to analyse variables such as weather data, crowd dynamics and even social media activity to predict crime patterns and deploy officers. This is just one of the ways in which AI is making us smarter.


Honda's N-Box and other minicars prove to be a hit with Japan's elderly drivers

The Japan Times

When Honda Motor Co. launched the latest version of its N-Box a year ago, it promoted features on the pint-sized minicar such as error-detecting pedals, automatic emergency braking and moveable seats, part of a push to market the vehicle to young families. But a drastically different demographic has made the N-Box the country's best-selling passenger vehicle: roughly half the owners of the most recent model are 50 or older. Automakers had hoped high-tech options would attract younger buyers to kei cars (minicars) even as the number of Japanese drivers under 30 has slid nearly 40 percent since 2001. Instead, with a price tag starting around ¥850,000 and low ownership taxes, minicars have gained a more loyal following among the rapidly growing population of elderly Japanese, many of whom are on fixed incomes. "After their children are grown and leave home, more people are looking to downsize from larger family cars to more compact ones," said Kiminori Murano, managing director at Tortoise, a dealership specializing in minicars in Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture.


Yamato and DeNA test autonomous delivery system in Japan

The Japan Times

On Tuesday, Yamato Transport Co. and DeNA Co. tested an autonomous vehicle delivery service to gauge the potential of self-driving technology in the field of logistics. The two Tokyo-based companies conducted the experiment in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, in which an electric car navigated through a short, quarantined road without anyone sitting in the driver's seat. A person sat in the front passenger seat to observe the operation. During one demonstration, the vehicle, equipped with a camera and infrared sensor, ran through the residential area at 5 to 10 kph. When the delivery car arrived at its destination, a customer opened up a box inside the vehicle, allowed a QR code on her smartphone to be scanned, and picked up the product.


DeNA and Kanagawa taxi group launch improved ride-hailing app to counter industry labor shortage

The Japan Times

YOKOHAMA – DeNA Co. and the Kanagawa Taxi Association jointly launched a ride-hailing app Thursday to efficiently match customers with taxies through an improved platform and an artificial-intelligence-based system amid a serious labor shortage. Taxi Bell, which can only be used in Kanagawa Prefecture, has solved some of the problems plaguing existing ride-hailing apps, including complicated operations, long wait times, matching failures and cash payment issues, they said. Potential demand has been estimated at 40 percent, and the companies hope the new app can help meet some of that demand by ironing out such problems. The platforms of existing ride-hailing apps are based on a system where taxis are called by phone and matched through operators. Taxi Bell has improved services by connecting passengers and drivers directly, DeNA said.