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The Japan Times


In wake of Japan disaster, scientists aim for faster and more accurate tsunami warnings

The Japan Times

Manchester – In the 10 years since the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake disaster, scientists have sought answers to a variety of questions relating to the deadly tsunami that began tearing through coastal communities just 15 minutes after the quake. Researchers have probed how a tsunami gathers height as it nears a shoreline and how this affects the damage it can cause. They've also begun to assess technologies for the early detection of tsunamis and improving tsunami observing systems across Japan. "The speed of a tsunami offshore is the same as a jet airplane and its speed inland similar to Usain Bolt," says Nobuhito Mori, a professor in the Coastal Disaster Research section of the Disaster Prevention Research Institute at Kyoto University. While tsunamis are fast, they are not as fast-moving as the earthquakes themselves.


Game of drones: Chinese giant DJI hit by U.S. tensions and staff defections

The Japan Times

SHENZHEN – Chinese drone giant DJI Technology Co. built up such a successful U.S. business over the past decade that it almost drove all competitors out of the market. Yet its North American operations have been hit by internal disturbances in recent weeks and months, with a raft of staff cuts and departures, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees. The loss of key managers, including some who have joined rivals, has compounded problems caused by U.S. government restrictions on Chinese companies, and raised the once-remote prospect of DJI's dominance being eroded, said four of the people, including two senior executives who were at the company until late 2020. About a third of DJI's 200-strong team in the region was laid off or resigned last year, from offices in Palo Alto, Burbank and New York, according to three former and one current employee. In February this year, DJI's head of U.S. R&D left and the company laid off the remaining R&D staff, numbering roughly 10 people, at its flagship U.S. research center in California's Palo Alto, four people said.


Mars rover Perseverance goes for a 'spin'

The Japan Times

Washington – The Mars rover Perseverance has successfully conducted its first test drive on the red planet, the U.S. space agency NASA said Friday. The six-wheeled rover traveled about 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in 33 minutes on Thursday, NASA said. It drove 4 meters forward, turned in place 150 degrees to the left, and then backed up 2.5 meters, leaving tire tracks in the Martian dust. "This was our first chance to'kick the tires' and take Perseverance out for a spin," said Anais Zarifian, Perseverance mobility test bed engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Zarifian said the test drive went "incredibly well" and represented a "huge milestone for the mission and the mobility team."


Z Holdings leaders aim to boost Asia business

The Japan Times

Technology giant Z Holdings Corp. is aiming to boost its services in Asia, co-chief executive officers Kentaro Kawabe and Takeshi Idezawa said in a recent interview. Z Holdings, which brought messaging app provider Line Corp. under its wing for business integration Monday, will also make efforts to discuss ethical issues regarding the use of artificial intelligence, they said. Z Holdings, the parent of internet portal Yahoo Japan Corp., will mainly aim to expand Line's Asia operations. "It's difficult to win a market share with a messaging app," said Idezawa, also Line's president. He expressed interest in developing and releasing a "superapp" that covers interactions, shopping and other services familiar to people in Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan, where the Line app has already made inroads.


Honda to start offering world's first level-3 autonomous car on Friday

The Japan Times

Honda Motor Co. said Thursday it will start offering from Friday the revamped Legend sedan in Japan equipped with "level-3" autonomous technology as the auto industry faces intensifying competition to develop driverless vehicles and a collision-free society. It is the world's first vehicle to hit the market that allows the driver to engage in different tasks such as reading and watching TV when the car is in certain conditions such as congested traffic on expressways, the Japanese transport ministry said. But in the case of an emergency the driver needs to take full control of the vehicle. "Autonomous technology has the potential to reduce the driver's burden while eliminating human errors that cause traffic accidents," Yoichi Sugimoto, executive chief engineer of Honda R&D Co., said in an online press conference. Honda plans to offer 100 units domestically for a suggested retail price of ¥11 million ($103,000) that will only be available on a three-year lease.


Robot pets help ease virus isolation in Japan

The Japan Times

Nami Hamaura says she feels less lonely working from home thanks to her singing companion Charlie, one of a new generation of cute and clever Japanese robots whose sales are booming during the pandemic. Smart home assistants such as Amazon's Alexa have found success worldwide, but tech firms in Japan are reporting huge demand for more humanlike alternatives, as people seek solace during coronavirus isolation. "I felt my circle became very small," said 23-year-old Hamaura, a recent graduate who has worked almost entirely remotely since April 2020. With socializing limited, life in her first job at a Tokyo trading company was nothing like she had imagined. So she adopted Charlie, a mug-sized robot with a round head, red nose and flashing bow-tie, who converses with its owner in song.


China eyes next-generation chip technology to take on global rivals

The Japan Times

In just two decades, China sent people into space, built its own aircraft carrier and developed a stealth fighter jet. Now the world's youngest superpower is setting out to prove its capabilities once more -- this time in semiconductors. At stake is nothing less than the future of the world's No. 2 economy. Beijing's blueprint for chip supremacy is enshrined in a five-year economic vision, set to be unveiled during a summit of top leaders in the capital this week. It's a multi-layered strategy both pragmatic and ambitious in scope, embracing aspirations to replace pivotal U.S. suppliers -- and fend off Washington -- while molding homegrown champions in emergent technologies.


Yahoo Japan operator merges with Line to take on foreign tech giants

The Japan Times

Z Holdings Corp., operator of Yahoo Japan online services, and messaging app provider Line Corp. merged on Monday to expand their online services globally as they aim to better compete with U.S. and Chinese tech giants. With a combined user base of about 150 million in Japan, the merger of Z Holdings, a SoftBank Group Corp. subsidiary, and Line will make it one of the biggest information technology companies in the country. "We would like to launch a global smartphone app" in the future to expand online services worldwide with the help of global tech firms in which SoftBank Group's nearly $100 billion Vision Fund has invested, said Takeshi Idezawa, Z Holdings co-CEO and former Line president, at a news conference. Kentaro Kawabe, the other Z Holdings co-CEO said, "We can offer a wider range of services, such as search engine, e-commerce and online financial operations, than those provided by GAFA -- Google LLC, Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com The surviving entity is Z Holdings, under which Yahoo Japan and Line operate their respective businesses.


Suzuki Motor chairman to retire after leading firm for over 40 years

The Japan Times

Suzuki Motor Corp. Chairman Osamu Suzuki will retire after leading the Japanese automaker for more than 40 years and making it into a global player with an overwhelming dominance in the Indian car market, the firm said Wednesday. The 91-year-old chairman will leave the post at a shareholders meeting slated for June and become an adviser, it said. Suzuki has served as either president, chairman or CEO of the company, known for its minivehicles and motorcycles, since 1978. "I decided to give way to successors to promote a midterm business plan," which the Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture-based company released the same day, Suzuki said during an online news conference. He added that the company's 100-year anniversary last year also prompted his decision to step down from the chairman's post.


Suzuki Motor chairman to retire after leading firm for over 40 years

The Japan Times

Suzuki Motor Corp. Chairman Osamu Suzuki will retire after leading the Japanese automaker for more than 40 years and making it into a global player with an overwhelming dominance in the Indian car market, the firm said Wednesday. The 91-year-old chairman will leave the post at a shareholders' meeting slated for June and become an adviser, it said. Suzuki has served as either president, chairman or CEO since 1978. The carmaker saw its consolidated sales expand sixfold from around ¥500 billion ($4.7 billion) in fiscal 1980 to ¥3 trillion in fiscal 2006. Suzuki played a crucial role as president when the automaker decided to team up with Maruti Udyog Ltd., then a state-run Indian carmaker, and launched joint production of the Maruti 800, a redesigned Suzuki Alto, in the world's second most populous nation in December 1983.