The Japan Times


Nidec to acquire Omron's auto electronics unit for ¥100 billion

The Japan Times

OSAKA - Electric motor-maker Nidec Corp. said Tuesday it will acquire component-maker Omron Corp.'s automotive electronics subsidiary for ¥100 billion ($893 million), as it seeks to speed up the development of technology for autonomous and other advanced vehicles. Kyoto-headquartered Nidec will take an entire stake in Omron Automotive Electronics Co. by the end of October, as it aims to combine its strengths in motors, radar and camera-related technologies with Omron Automotive's edge in auto components for self-driving vehicles. "We want to widen our product lineup through the acquisition and enhance our competitiveness in the automobile-oriented business," as the auto industry has been shifting its focus to more electrified and self-driving vehicles, Nidec Chairman and CEO Shigenobu Nagamori told a news conference in Tokyo. Omron said it will focus more on its industrial automation and health care businesses as it found it difficult to continue hefty investments in developing auto technology on its own amid the intensifying race to make next-generation vehicles. Nidec, founded in 1973, has grown in part due to its ambitious mergers and acquisitions strategy.


Russia deploys surveillance drone to Japan-claimed isles off Hokkaido, report says

The Japan Times

MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed a surveillance drone to an artillery division stationed on a group of islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a Russian newspaper reported Monday. The drone will be used for patrolling coastal areas and surrounding waters, as well as for rescue operations, according to the newspaper, Izvestia. The artillery unit is stationed on two of the four Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido, known in Japan as Etorofu and Kunashiri. The Orlan-10 drone, the same type as those sent by Russia to Syria, is able to operate within a 120-kilometer radius for up to 14 hours while transmitting images from a mounted camera, the Russian paper said.


Russia deploys surveillance drone to Japan-claimed isles off Hokkaido, report says

The Japan Times

MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed a surveillance drone with an artillery division to a group of islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a Russian newspaper reported on Monday. The drone will be used for patrolling coastal areas and surrounding waters, as well as for rescue operations, according to the newspaper, Izvestia. The artillery unit is stationed on two of the four Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido, known in Japan as Etorofu and Kunashiri. The Orlan-10 drone, the same type as those sent by Russia to Syria, is able to operate within a 120-kilometer radius for up to 14 hours while transmitting images from a mounted camera, the Russian paper said.


G7 pushes North Korea to continue denuclearization talks with U.S.

The Japan Times

DINARD, FRANCE - Foreign ministers of Group of Seven nations on Saturday pushed North Korea to continue denuclearization negotiations with the United States while vowing to maintain pressure on Pyongyang to encourage it to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. In a communique issued after a two-day meeting in Dinard, western France, the ministers also expressed serious concern about the situation in the East and South China seas -- a veiled criticism of China's militarization of outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea and its attempts to undermine Japan's control of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Senkakus are administered by Japan, but claimed by China and Taiwa, which call them the Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively. During the meeting, some G7 members touched on China's expanding global ambitions through its signature Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure project, a Japanese official said. But the communique makes no reference to the initiative in an apparent effort to demonstrate unity among the group.


Boeing defends 'fundamental safety' of 737 Max after crash report but admits system error

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - Embattled U.S. aviation giant Boeing on Thursday insisted on the "fundamental safety" of its 737 Max aircraft but pledged to take all necessary steps to ensure the jets' airworthiness. The statements came hours after Ethiopian officials said pilots of a doomed plane that crashed last month, leaving 157 people dead, had followed the company's recommendations. The preliminary findings released Thursday by transportation authorities in Addis Ababa put the American aircraft giant under even greater pressure to restore public trust amid mounting signs the company's onboard anti-stall systems were at fault in crashes involving its formerly top-selling 737 Max aircraft -- incidents that left nearly 350 people dead in less than five months. "We remain confident in the fundamental safety of the 737 Max," CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement, adding that impending software fixes would make the aircraft "among the safest airplanes ever to fly." Muilenburg also acknowledged, however, that an "erroneous activation" of Boeing's Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System had occurred. The system is designed to prevent stalls but may have forced the Ethiopian and Indonesian jets into the ground.


Lego's hopes new programmable robotics kit will see use in classrooms

The Japan Times

NEW YORK - Danish toymaker Lego Group has unveiled a new robotics kit that encourages students to gain programming skills through collaborative, hands-on activities. Each set of the Spike Prime kit comes with over 500 pieces, for building a variety of creations, and is paired with lesson plans for both students and teachers. It also comes with an app that uses a drag-and-drop programming language. One of the models, called "Rain or Shine," is programmed to get data from a weather service, which then instructs a Lego robot to move its umbrella or sunglasses based on whether it is raining or sunny in a particular city. "Our intention is that every child in middle school should be able to have a very solid and valuable STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) learning experience and ultimately to build that confidence," said Esben Staerk Joergensen, president of Lego Education.


Japanese teenager lops off Guinness World Record-setting locks ready for Reiwa and college

The Japan Times

KAGOSHIMA - An 18-year-old Japanese teenager, once recognized as having the longest hair in the world among 13-to-17-year-olds, had her first-ever haircut Tuesday before starting life at university. Keito Kawahara, who lives in Izumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, said she plans to donate the hair that was cut for medical wigs. Kawahara initially grew her hair to hide a scar on her head that developed as a result of medical treatment shortly after birth. She continued life without cutting her hair, which she braided every morning during high school. There were times when she thought about changing her hairstyle, but instead she focused on studying for university entrance examinations.


Toyota's Cue 3 robot can't slam dunk or even dribble, but it shoots a mean 3-pointer

The Japan Times

It can't dribble, let alone slam dunk, but Toyota's basketball robot hardly ever misses a free throw or a 3-pointer. The 207-centimeter-tall (6 feet 10-inches) machine made five of eight 3-point shots in a demonstration in a Tokyo suburb Monday, a ratio its engineers say is worse than usual. Toyota Motor Corp.'s robot, called Cue 3, computes a three-dimensional image where the basket is, using sensors on its torso, and adjusts motors inside its arm and knees to give the shot the right angle and propulsion for a swish. Efforts in developing human-shaped robots underline a global shift in robotics use from pre-programmed mechanical arms in limited situations like factories to functioning in the real world with people. The 2017 version of the robot was designed to make free throws.


Experimental 'cow toilets' aim to cut e-moo-ssions

The Japan Times

THE HAGUE - A Dutch inventor is banking on a new bovine urinal to help cut emissions that cause environmental damage. Tests have started on a farm in the Netherlands on the device, which collects some of the 15 to 20 liters (4 to 5 gallons) of urine that the average cow produces a day. That produces huge amounts of ammonia in a country like the Netherlands, which is the world's second-biggest agricultural exporter, after the United States. "We are tackling the problem at the source," Henk Hanskamp, the Dutch inventor and businessman behind the "Cow Toilet," said Friday. "A cow is never going to be completely clean. The way the toilet works is "udderly" ingenious. The urinal is in a box placed behind the cow, while in front is a feeding trough. Once the animal finishes eating a robot arm stimulates a nerve near the udders, which then makes it want to urinate. The cow toilets are currently being tested on a farm near the eastern Dutch town of Doetinchem, and seven of its 58 cows have already learned how to use them without the need for stimulation. "The cows have got used to it," Hanskamp said. "They recognize the box, lift their tail and pee." "The stables have become cleaner and the ground is drier.


Record-setting British balloonist Julian Nott dies after accident in California

The Japan Times

SAN DIEGO - Authorities and family members say a renowned British balloonist and scientist who set 79 world ballooning records died after a balloon-related accident in Southern California. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports Thursday that 74-year-old Julian Richard Nott was injured over the weekend after his balloon with a pressurized cabin landed in a rural area. The newspaper says Nott died Tuesday at a hospital. An obituary on his website says Nott was flying an experimental balloon he invented to test high-altitude technology. San Diego County sheriff's officials say deputies responded Sunday following reports that two people were injured after the aircraft landed near Palomar Mountain.