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Postman, shopper, builder: In Japan, there's a robot for that

Japan Times >> News

Forget the flashy humanoids with their gymnastics skills: At the World Robot Summit in Tokyo, the focus was on robots that can deliver the mail, shop and build a house. One example was ZMP Inc.'s CarriRo Delivery, a robot shaped a bit like a toy London bus, with bright, friendly "eyes" on its front. It can zip around the streets at 6 kilometer per hour and deliver packages. CarriRo "is designed to roll along the pavement and direct itself via GPS to an address within a two-kilometer radius," explained Chio Ishikawa, from Sumitomo Corp., which is promoting the robot. The recipient of the package has a code sent to a smartphone, allowing him or her to access CarriRo's innards and retrieve whatever is inside -- mail, medicine or dinner.


Silicon Valley-style coding boot camp seeks to reset Japan Inc.

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Barely six months after inaugurating a tiny software-coding boot camp in a basement in Tokyo, Silicon Valley transplant Kani Munidasa stood before some of Japan's top business leaders in February with a warning: software was threatening their future. A Sri Lankan native with a Japanese mother and wife, Munidasa was speaking at the invitation of Nobuyuki Idei, a former chief executive of Sony Corp. Idei had offered to become an adviser to the boot camp, called Code Chrysalis, whose mission of bringing Japan's software engineering up to global standards and helping its companies transform aligned with his own. "Idei-san told me, 'Tell it as it is; don't sugar-coat anything. They need to hear that change has to happen,' " Munidasa said, recalling how he showed up at the executives' meeting in a T-shirt and hoodie. Long known as a monozukuri -- or manufacturing -- powerhouse, Japan is in danger of getting left behind as artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning sweep through industries from cars to banking, Idei and others say.


U.S. lawmakers press Facebook over data sharing with Chinese firms

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WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook Inc. faced criticism Wednesday from Republican and Democratic lawmakers who demanded that the social media company be more forthcoming about data it has shared with four Chinese firms. The bipartisan criticism reflects rising frustration in Congress about how Facebook protects the privacy of the more than 2 billion people who use its services worldwide. The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee accused Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg of failing to disclose the company's agreements with the Chinese firms when he appeared before them in April and testified about Facebook's sharing of users' personal information with third parties. "Clearly, the company's partnerships with Chinese technology companies and others should have been disclosed before Congress and the American people," the panel's Republican chairman, Greg Walden, and top Democrat Frank Pallone said in a statement. "We strongly encourage full transparency from Facebook and the entire tech community," they wrote.


Tesla with Autopilot feature slams into truck stopped at red light

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SOUTH JORDAN, UTAH – A Tesla sedan with a semi-autonomous Autopilot feature has rear-ended a fire department truck at 60 mph (97 kph) apparently without braking before impact, but police say it is unknown if the Autopilot feature was engaged. The cause of the Friday evening crash, involving a Tesla Model S and a fire department mechanic truck stopped at a red light, was under investigation, said police in South Jordan, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The crash, in which the Tesla driver was injured, comes as federal safety agencies investigate the performance of Tesla's semi-autonomous driving system. The Tesla's air bags were activated in the crash, South Jordan police Sgt. The Tesla's driver suffered a broken right ankle, and the driver of the Unified Fire Authority mechanic truck didn't require treatment, Winkler said.


Once America's best-selling car, the Ford Taurus dies, again

Japan Times >> News

DETROIT – A car that once was America's top-seller is about to die -- for a second time. Ford Taurus, may you rest in peace at the salvage yard. Blame the full-size sedan's slow demise on the national obsession with SUVs and Ford Motor Co.'s need to slash costs and remake itself for a new era of self-driving cars and shuttles. Ford has announced the car's passing as part of major restructuring plan aimed at focusing capital spending on more popular SUVs and technology needed to morph Ford into a mobility company. The 114-year-old automaker said it would stop selling all car models in North America but two: the Mustang muscle car and a version of the compact Focus called Active.


Recovery in car exports to the U.S. in February helps Japan's industrial output rise 4.1%

Japan Times >> News

Industrial production in February rose 4.1 percent, rebounding from a sharp fall the previous month due to a recovery in exports of cars to the United States, government data showed Friday. The lower-than-expected increase in production follows a downwardly revised 6.8 percent drop in January, with the seasonally adjusted index of output at factories and mines standing at 103.4 against the base of 100 for 2010, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a preliminary report. The ministry kept unchanged its basic assessment that industrial production is "picking up slowly" as the margin of rebound seen in February is "not enough," a ministry official said. "The recovery in car exports to the United States also spread to domestic demand for auto parts," the official said. "Strength in the general-purpose, production and business-oriented machinery sector is expected to push up overall production, in particular, industrial and construction robots," he said.


Trump seen staffing, or casting, Fox talking heads in key White House posts

Japan Times >> News

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's favorite TV network is increasingly serving as a West Wing casting call, as the president reshapes his administration with camera-ready personalities. Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, is a former U.N. ambassador, a White House veteran -- and perhaps most importantly a Fox News channel talking head. Bolton's appointment, rushed out late Thursday, follows Trump's recent attempt to recruit Fox guest Joseph diGenova for his legal team. Bolton went on Fox to discuss his selection and said it had happened so quickly that "I think I'm still a Fox News contributor." Another recent TV-land addition to the Trump White House is veteran CNBC contributor Larry Kudlow as top economic adviser.


Machines, not stargazers, spot eighth planet in faraway solar system, matching ours

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – A record-tying eighth planet has been found in a faraway solar system, matching our own in numbers.


SoftBank's Son remains confident over Saudi investment in Vision Fund amid crackdown

Japan Times >> News

Billionaire Masayoshi Son may be getting closer to achieving his dream of making SoftBank Group Corp. the world's biggest investor in technologies, thanks in part to the main patron of Son's $100 billion (¥11.3


Survey ranks Japanese kids' group problem-solving skills at No. 2, behind Singapore

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A 2015 survey of 52 countries and economies ranked Japan second behind Singapore in collaborative problem-solving skills among 15-year-old students, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday.