The Japan Times


Google moves head Japan office to Shibuya Stream building, launches campus for startups

The Japan Times

Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai was in Tokyo on Tuesday to inaugurate the move of the company's Japanese head office to an expansive new complex in the Shibuya district. Taking up the majority of the gleaming new 35-floor Shibuya Stream building, Google has put its name on the building and dedicated two floors to the newly launched Google for Startups Campus, which is its seventh in the world and second in Asia, after Seoul. Agnieszka Hryniewicz-Bieniek, the director of Google for Startups, said the company will run an accelerator program early next year to select 12 startups looking to scale up their work on artificial intelligence and machine learning, both critical aspects of Google's current and future operations. She also stressed the importance of inclusiveness at an event where the Wi-Fi password was BuildInclusiveTeams. "We would like Campus Tokyo to support women founders," she said, adding that Google is proud that 37 percent of its campus participants are female entrepreneurs, a higher proportion than in the wider startup ecosystem. "So when they go to the next stage of growth, we're behind them, we're supporting them."


SoftBank selling Roomba rival Whiz to clean up U.S. industry

The Japan Times

SAN FRANCISCO – SoftBank Group Corp. has put billions of dollars into a laser-based technology that could allow cars to drive themselves and help astronauts land on distant planets. It turns out that same technology makes a pretty good vacuum cleaner. Engineers at SoftBank Robotics have spent years applying lidar, which accurately maps distances in real-time, to carpet cleaning. The result is Whiz, a sort of ultra-high-end Roomba that SoftBank will start selling to companies in the U.S. on Tuesday for $499 a month. Given the high price, offices are the target market.


Sony to open applied AI research center in India next year

The Japan Times

NEW DELHI – Sony Corp. will open its first research center in India in 2020 to study the application of artificial intelligence technology to businesses. The Tokyo-based company will establish the center in Bengaluru, known as India's Silicon Valley, in the state of Karnataka, according to a company statement late last week. The center will develop AI technologies adaptable to the entertainment field, where Sony provides films and videos, a Sony spokesman said. "Having Bengaluru as a foothold, we want to reinforce our research and development capability and competitiveness," he said. Sony's software development subsidiary, Sony India Software Centre Pvt., is also located in the city.


Yamagata University team finds 143 ancient geoglyphs in Peru's Nazca grasslands

The Japan Times

YAMAGATA – Yamagata University has announced the discovery of 143 geoglyphs on the Nazca Pampa and surrounding areas in Peru, including one found in a study using artificial intelligence technology. The university's team, led by professor Masato Sakai, found 142 geoglyphs, including ones depicting humans, snakes and birds, through analysis of high-resolution images of the areas and fieldwork there between 2016 and 2018. The research was based on a hypothesis that many geoglyphs were created along small paths in the western region of the Nazca Pampa, according to the university's announcement Friday. The team conducted the AI-based study with cooperation from IBM Japan Ltd. between 2018 and 2019. The world's first such study analyzed aerial photographs using deep-learning techniques to look for what are likely to be geoglyphs.


With launch of Stadia, Google enters battle for cloud gaming market

The Japan Times

SAN FRANCISCO – Ever-expanding Google will become a gaming company Tuesday with the launch of its Stadia cloud service, which lets people play console-quality video games in a web browser or on a smartphone. The internet giant hopes to break into the global video game industry -- expected to top $150 billion this year -- with cloud technology that could broaden audiences attracted by rich new features as well as ease of access with no more need for consoles. But analysts say Stadia's outlook is uncertain as its faces rivals such as PlayStation Now in an emerging and highly competitive market. Stadia plays into a trend in which content -- ranging from blockbuster films to work projects -- lives in the cloud and is accessible from any device. "All of these new services are merely pointing out that we don't need sophisticated hardware in the home to access entertainment," said Wedbush Securities equity research managing director Michael Pachter.


Japan's health care sector still a magnet for Filipinos

The Japan Times

MANILA – Job opportunities in Japan's health industry continue to attract Filipinos a decade since it started accepting candidate nurses and caregivers under a bilateral economic agreement. Earlier this month, a new group of Filipino health workers who aspire to work as nurses and caregivers here began preparatory training in the Japanese language and culture in two centers in Manila. The 341 applicants comprise the 12th batch of candidate nurses and caregivers under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement forged in 2008. Japan accepted the first batch of Filipino health workers in 2009. And I think I will broaden my experience and learn more there.


FamilyMart to allow shorter operating hours at stores across Japan

The Japan Times

Convenience store operator FamilyMart Co. has said it will allow its franchise owners across Japan to shorten operating hours from March, in a bid to address a severe labor shortage during late-night hours. Under the new policy, which will cover nearly 16,000 stores, franchise owners will be able to shut down for part or all of the period from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. if they notify the headquarters in advance. "It is up to each of our franchise owners to make a decision" to end 24-hour operations, said Takashi Sawada, president of the company, at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday. Store owners who want to cut operating hours would be able to choose to do so either every day or only on Sundays, according to firm, which is Japan's second-largest convenience store operator based on number of outlets. FamilyMart will also raise its monthly incentive to ¥120,000 ($1,100) from ¥100,000 for stores that maintain around-the-clock operations.


SoftBank considering plan to merge Yahoo Japan with Line

The Japan Times

SoftBank Group Corp. is considering a plan to consolidate its Yahoo Japan internet business with the messaging service Line Corp. Z Holdings Corp., a unit of SoftBank's telecom arm formerly known as Yahoo Japan, confirmed Thursday that it's in talks with Tokyo-based Line about a possible merger, but said no final decision on a deal had been made. Line separately said it is considering such a merger along with other opportunities to increase value. Z Holdings shares surged in Tokyo, while Line's stock was poised to climb. SoftBank Corp., the domestic telecom arm of Masayoshi Son's business empire, holds a 44 percent stake in Z Holdings, while Line is controlled by South Korea's Naver Corp. SoftBank is considering setting up a new company with Naver, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. They may reach an agreement as early as this month, one of the people said.


Amid privacy backlash, China's DJI unveils phone app to track nearby drones

The Japan Times

MONTREAL, QUEBEC – China's DJI, the world's largest commercial drone maker, said on Wednesday it is developing technology that would allow the public to track the registrations of drones in flight using just a smartphone, amid a broader industry push to make such data available. SZ DJI Technology Co. Ltd. aims to roll out a free app in 2020, pending regulatory approval, that would allow its users for the first time to identify any modern drone with a phone, company executives told Reuters. The push for remote identification technology comes amid regulatory calls for greater oversight of drone flight, on fears that untraceable, unmanned aircraft could be used for spying or accidentally disrupt commercial flights. DJI, which has an estimated 70 percent market share according to industry analysts, demonstrated its drone-to-phone transmission app at the United Nations aviation agency's Drone Enable conference in Montreal. "We've created a remote identification solution that works with what people already have," said Brendan Schulman, vice president of policy and legal affairs at DJI.


Sony to open first Southeast Asian video game studio in Malaysia in 2020

The Japan Times

KUALA LUMPUR – Sony Corp.'s gaming arm will establish its first Southeast Asian video game studio in Malaysia in 2020. Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC and the Malaysian government jointly said the studio, named Sony Interactive Entertainment Worldwide Studios Malaysia Sdn. Bhd., will provide art and animation to develop global game titles for its PlayStation consoles. Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan said in a statement the firm decided to set up the studio in Malaysia because of the country's talented human resources, vibrant game ecosystem and the government's support. Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Darell Leiking said in the statement that the Sony studio "is a key win for Malaysia and a testament to the nation's efforts to attract strategic high-quality investments from international companies."