Japan's Preferred Networks Inc. has only one publicly available product, a whimsical application that uses artificial intelligence to automate the coloring of manga cartoons. Yet the four-year-old firm has become Japan's most valuable startup, with a venture capital funding that priced it at more than $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. Toyota Motor Corp., its biggest backer, handed over $110 million on a bet its algorithms will help them compete with Google in driverless cars. Last February, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe posed for pictures with the firm's two young founders at his office, where they were awarded a prize for promising new ventures. What sets Preferred Networks apart from the hundreds of other AI startups is its ties to Japan's manufacturing might.
NEW DELHI: India and Japan will work together to introduce artificial intelligence and robotics in the defence sector, the next level of strategic cooperation between the two Asian partners. Kentaro Sonoura, Japan's state minister for foreign affairs and a close adviser to PM Shinzo Abe, told TOI in an exclusive chat, "You should expect to see increased bilateral cooperation between us to develop unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and robotics." The strategic sphere is where the bulk of India-Japan convergence lies. After the nuclear agreement was ratified by the Japanese parliament late 2017, Sonoura said India and Japan would be setting up a joint task force for commercial agreements by the end of January. With the legislation behind them, the Japanese minister said Tokyo was keen to get this going.
As Japan braces for a snap election later this month, Toshihiro Nikai, the No. 2 man of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, on Wednesday dismissed it as "impossible" that his party will lose big enough to place Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the LDP's rule in jeopardy. Questions are mounting over the legitimacy of Abe's self-imposed victory line for his ruling coalition to win a simple majority, or 233 seats, in the 465-member Lower House in the Oct. 22 vote. Some critics say the goal is intentionally unambitious, citing the LDP and Komeito coalition's overwhelming pre-election strength of more than 320 seats. That margin means the LDP alone could lose as many as 89 seats before the pair hits the 233-seat redline needed to maintain a majority in the Diet. Even a loss of about 50 LDP seats is bad enough for the party, as it means the LDP would be close to forfeiting its own majority in the chamber.
Somewhat overshadowed in recent years by China's rise as a regional and global power, Japan still extends considerable influence as a world leader in various fields, including investment, policy management and trade, according to experts who gathered at a Tokyo conference earlier this week. But at the same time, Japan lags behind other countries in incorporating into everyday life technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence and financial technology to improve efficiency, they said. "We want to talk about Japan as a role model, not Japan following, not Japan copying, but Japan actually and constructively led by the young generation," said Jesper Koll, who heads Wisdom Tree Japan KK, a Tokyo-based exchange-traded fund sponsor, in the opening session of the annual G1 Global Conference organized at Globis University on Sunday. Experts shared insights in a session titled "Can Japan be a Role Model for Global Economic Prosperity and Stability?" Hiromichi Mizuno, chief investment officer at Government Pension Investment Fund said the country can show leadership in the field of investment by educating on responsible investment, a concept that gained traction after the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008 that triggered the global financial crisis, exemplifying the long-term failure of a capitalism that emphasizes the single-minded pursuit of short-term corporate profits.
My visit to Japan has coincided with the 72nd anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. On August 6, 1945, the nuclear bomb dropped by the Enola Gay Boeing B-29 exploded, killing an estimated 140,000 people. Three days later, the U.S. dropped the second bomb by the Bockscar B-29 on Nagasaki, killing an estimated 75,000. On the occasion of the 72nd anniversary ceremony about 50,000 people, including representatives from 80 nations, gathered at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. During the occasion, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for global cooperation to end nuclear weapons.
Faced with the worst labor shortage in decades, Japanese service companies are finally turning to labor-saving technology, an investment that could lift the sector's woeful level of productivity and allow them to raise wages. While Japan's manufacturers are renowned for deploying advanced robotics, most domestic-focused services companies fell behind in information technology investment, put off by a stagnant economy, restrictive labor rules and a shrinking domestic market. But as the workforce declines and the nation ages, businesses in areas like nursing and retail have found it harder to attract and keep staff. As Partners Co. is among companies looking to software for a solution. It plans to spend about ¥300 million ($2.7 million) to install new technology at its 15 nursing homes in and around Tokyo to make life easier for staff and residents.
Japan aims to finalize on June 9 plans to allow package delivery by drone sometime from 2020 and the commercialization of self-driving trucks by 2022, as it scrambles to breathe new life into its corporate sector, sources told Reuters. Japan is also eyeing financial technology as a source of future growth, the sources said, but has so far lagged overseas firms that have adopted technology to transform processes such as payments, lending, asset management and investment banking. A separate document obtained by Reuters shows the government's annual growth strategy due on Friday will keep up policies Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced last year to narrow the wealth gap, improve working conditions and boost productivity. In a rare step, the strategy document, which does not usually touch on defense, has called for effective military defense in line with Japan's military alliance with the United States, against the backdrop of North Korea's missile program.
Hanover German Chancellor Angela Merkel has kicked off the world's biggest digital business fair in Hanover with a speech urging developers not to leave their fellow humans behind. At the opening ceremony for the CeBIT expo, Merkel appealed to tech firms to include the'millions of people who in some ways don't know what awaits them' in the digital revolution, adding that politicians could not achieve such inclusion without help from the industry. Merkel is set to peruse the latest trends at the trade fair in detail on Monday, when it opens to the public, together with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 'We cannot let a situation arise in which only certain people generate wealth,' Abe said on Sunday, reinforcing the theme of shared benefits. Merkel admitted that Europe was all too often lagging behind in digital technology.