Tokyo Metropolis Prefecture


Toyota is building a 'smart' city to test AI, robots and self-driving cars

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Carmaker Toyota has unveiled plans for a 2,000-person "city of the future," where it will test autonomous vehicles, smart technology and robot-assisted living. The ambitious project, dubbed Woven City, is set to break ground next year in the foothills of Japan's Mount Fuji, about 60 miles from Tokyo. Announcing the project at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda described the new city as a "living laboratory" that will allow researchers, scientists and engineers to test emerging technology in a "real-life environment." A digital mock-up shows small autonomous vehicles operating alongside pedestrians. "With people buildings and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test AI technology, in both the virtual and the physical world, maximizing its potential," he said on stage during Tuesday's unveiling.


University of Tokyo fires associate professor over anti-Chinese Twitter posts

The Japan Times

The University of Tokyo dismissed a 32-year-old associate professor on Wednesday for a series of anti-Chinese comments he made on Twitter late last year. Shohei Osawa, an artificial intelligence researcher, "grossly damaged the honor and reputation" of the state-run university, it said in a statement. Osawa tweeted the same day that his dismissal is "unfair" and the university is "wrong in making light of Japan's AI technology development while valuing the diversity of various Asian countries." Between November and December, Osawa made the controversial comments while introducing himself as the university's "youngest associate professor" in his Twitter profile, including that Daisy, an AI technology firm he runs, "will not hire Chinese." "I will not bother to hold an interview if (I learn the applicant is) Chinese. I will eliminate the applicant in document screening," he tweeted, adding, "Workers with low performance levels deserve to be discriminated against in the context of capitalism."


Wearing two hats, Tokyo 'entre-doctor' pins hopes on AI to enhance medical care

The Japan Times

By day, he is the chief executive officer of a Tokyo startup. At night and on weekends, he works shifts as a doctor. He wants to keep it that way because he needs both to stay in balance. Sho Okiyama is one of the growing number of what are known in Japan as "entre-doctors," or doctors who are also entrepreneurs, making full use of their medical knowledge and clinical experience in doing business. What makes Okiyama distinctive is the diversity of his experience.


Could Japan's Exograph people-watching project be the shape of the future to come?

The Japan Times

Some people will shudder at Hiroki Enno's idea of a "social experiment," yet he believes the project could someday benefit society as a whole. The 28-year-old CEO of Plasma Inc., a Tokyo-based IT company, is paying participants in exchange for allowing him to film their activities at home -- 24 hours a day. The subjects, whose identities are hidden, each received ¥200,000 ($1,830) at the end of the month-long Project Exograph. The express purpose of the endeavor, which he describes as a "human record of life," is to collect data on consumer behavior to be analyzed by businesses and marketing experts for commercial and other uses. The participants had to have most areas of their homes -- even the toilets -- fitted with cameras and now must trust that these videos and their identities will never be divulged to the public.


Japanese language firm that surged 1,093% eyes new biz

The Japan Times

A Japanese language school whose stock soared almost 12-fold last year is planning to expand into new businesses as its chief executive officer tries to keep the rally alive. RareJob Inc., a Tokyo-based online English conversation school that uses teachers in the Philippines, will focus on areas including leadership training and job placement, Gaku Nakamura, the company's founder and chief executive officer, said in an interview. Nakamura said one of his goals is to boost the company's market value to ¥100 billion ($922 million) from its current level of about ¥25 billion. RareJob surged 1,093% in 2019, the second-best performance in Japan's Mothers market of smaller shares, after it surprised investors by saying earnings would jump. Analysts -- and history -- suggest it will be difficult to keep up those gains after the company's valuation exceeded 100 times estimated profit.


Japanese Cafe Has Weekly Playdates for Robot Dogs - Robot News

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We love pets here at YellRobot. But one café in Tokyo may be taking things to a whole new level. Every Sunday, The Penguin Café opens an hour earlier and holds play dates for customers and their dogs. They happen to be robots. Customers seem to be really into the robot play date.


'Unsupervised' AI may allow for more accurate cancer recurrence predictions

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A team of researchers from the RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (Saitama, Japan) has developed a machine-learning platform capable of identifying features associated with prostate cancer recurrence in pathology images that were previously unknown to clinicians. In combination with pathologist-developed criteria, the technology may allow for more accurate cancer recurrence predictions. Conventionally, when clinicians and/or researchers train artificial intelligence (AI) systems, the technology is only able to learn and make predictions based on the information that has been inputted – there is no scope for the system to learn outside of what is currently known. In this study, no medical knowledge was inputted into the platform, rather, investigators employed'unsupervised' deep neural networks, called autoencoders, and utilized a subset of 13,188 non-annotated, whole-mount, diagnostic prostate pathology slide images from the Nippon Medical School Hospital (Tokyo, Japan), allowing the AI system to learn and make predictions independently. The team developed a method for translating the features identified by the machine-learning platform into high-resolution images that could be understood by clinicians.


Robot-maker ZMP targets tractors, taxis and carts for elderly

The Japan Times

Robot-maker ZMP Inc. is aiming to launch the first commercial level 3 automated bus operation in Japan at an airport in 2020. The Tokyo-based startup, which bills itself as the "robot of everything," has built a variety of contraptions ranging from delivery robots to autonomous forklifts. It plans to start marketing Japan's first fully autonomous single-seat electric vehicle, the Robocar Walk, in May, founder and CEO Hisashi Taniguchi said. Taniguchi expanded on his plans during a recent interview. Is it true ZMP is targeting a level 4 automated driving business by the Olympics?


2020 Olympics fuel race to monetize autonomous driving

The Japan Times

The driver, who got the bus humming with the push of a button, stayed behind the wheel but was hands-off most of the time, keeping intervention to a minimum. The bus, sporting an array of sensors and cameras, was limited to a maximum speed of around 30 kph. The bus completed the circuit from Gunma University to Shibukawa Station in about an hour, twice a day for nine days, as part of a pilot program set up by the school, a local bus line, the Gunma Prefectural Government and NEC. The aim: to achieve the government's goal of getting driverless vehicles up and running on Japan's roads by the end of the year. The move underlines the fact that self-driving vehicles are no longer a vision for the distant future, but just around the corner.


Pepper the robot is now a Buddhist priest programmed to chant at funerals

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After working in the home, as an assistant at various stores, and as a waiter, SoftBank's humanoid robot Pepper is adding Buddhist priest to the list of careers the robot can take on. Pepper can chant sutras in a computerized voice while hitting a drum, reports Reuters, as detailed at the creepily-named Life Ending Industry Expo in Tokyo. The company Nissei Eco wrote the software for the Buddhist chants and said because of Japan's shrinking and aging population, Buddhists priests weren't getting as much monetary support from the community and have to work other jobs away from temple to make ends meet. Pepper's abilities were developed so it could hold funerals when there weren't any Buddhist priests readily available. That, and using a robot is much cheaper -- about $350 compared to $2,200 for a human priest, if you don't value genuine human sentiments for the loss of your loved ones.