The Japan Times


How artificial intelligence is taking on ransomware

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – Twice in the space of six weeks, the world has suffered major attacks of ransomware -- malicious software that locks up photos and other files stored on your computer, then demands money to release them. In the early days, identifying malicious programs such as viruses involved matching their code against a database of known malware. For instance, a program that starts encrypting files without showing a progress bar on the screen could be flagged for surreptitious activity, said Fabian Wosar, chief technology officer at the New Zealand security company Emsisoft. Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and chief technology officer at the California vendor CrowdStrike, said that even if a particular system offers 99 percent protection, "it's just a math problem of how many times you have to deviate your attack to get that 1 percent."


hitachis-ai-badges-boost-worker-performance-happiness-advice

The Japan Times

Hitachi also developed a smartphone application by which the AI system can provide guidance to the wearer, such as advice that having a conversation in the morning increases employee happiness. The experiment covered 600 employees in the Hitachi group's corporate sales operations. In terms of achieving order targets, performance was 27 percent higher than in sections where happiness levels fell. Hitachi hopes to provide services using the AI system to other companies.


Online video services letting remote grandparents view their descendants' progress

The Japan Times

Two online services using technology to allow grandparents to overcome the distance between them and their grandchildren are proving popular in Japan. Using the technology, relatives can watch on their televisions high-quality images and videos uploaded via the company's application with a simple click of a remote control. In a similar vein, Photocreate Co., which provides an online portal for schoolchildren's pictures shot by professional photographers, added a new feature to its service in May that allows distant grandparents to see images uploaded by parents. The online picture service Snap Snap, introduced by the Tokyo-based company in 2006, has been used by 5,000 schools and kindergartens across Japan.


Driverless vehicles put through road tests in Okinawa

The Japan Times

The tests overseen by METI saw two four-seater electric carts navigate roads fitted with the required routing technology near hotels and tourist facilities in Chatan on the west coast of Okinawa Island. Further trials will involve driverless microbuses traveling short distances in other regions, according to the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, which conducted Monday's tests with other firms. Self-driving vehicles "can be utilized in less-populated areas and tourist sites. In a joint effort with such firms as Yamaha Motor Co. and Hitachi Ltd., the institute will conduct more tests to evaluate safety issues while investigating ways to reduce waiting times for people using such services, the institute said.


Rise of AI-assisted art raises challenges notions of proprietary rights

The Japan Times

Artificial intelligence is finding its way into the world of music, literature and art, raising never-before-considered questions about a creators' role. A team of researchers from Nagoya University, led by engineering professor Satoshi Sato, caused a sensation in 2015 when a novel written by AI technology cleared the first round of a literary competition. The researchers first created a plot while the software wrote sentences based on it. The use of AI in creative endeavors, however, has raised questions about intellectual property.


First counterterror drill for drone attack held at nuclear plant in Ehime

The Japan Times

Some 60 people from the police and Japan Coast Guard participated in the exercise at the Ikata nuclear power plant, which simulated a drone launched from a boat planting a makeshift explosive device on the premises of reactor 3. Officials of Shikoku Electric Power Co., which runs the plant, and members of the bomb disposal unit in the Ehime Prefectural Police also took part. "We took into account the serious situation regarding terrorism in conducting this drill, and I think it is important to prepare for the unpredictable," said Hideto Murase, the local security chief of the Ehime Prefectural Police. Shikoku Electric plans to finish building by March 2020 a facility that is capable of withstanding major terror attacks, such as those involving intentional aircraft crashes, and preventing the release of radioactive materials.


Experts see advances in AI helping diagnose, find cures for hard-to-treat diseases

The Japan Times

Scientists from Harvard and the University of Vermont developed a machine learning tool -- a type of AI that enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed -- to better identify depression by studying Instagram posts, suggesting "new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness." NYU researchers analyzed medical and lab records to accurately predict the onset of dozens of diseases and conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart or kidney failure and stroke. When IBM's Watson computing system won the TV game show "Jeopardy" in 2011, "there were a lot of folks in health care who said that is the same process doctors use when they try to understand health care," said Anil Jain, chief medical officer of Watson Health. Research firm CB Insights this year identified 106 digital health startups applying machine learning and predictive analytics "to reduce drug discovery times, provide virtual assistance to patients, and diagnose ailments by processing medical images."


Love of anime prompts young Filipinos to pursue Japanese studies in select high schools

The Japan Times

The Filipino Department of Education started offering the Japanese language and culture program to high school students in 2009, together with Spanish and French, to prepare young Filipinos for both local and international opportunities that would require communicative competence in a second foreign language, after English. When the education department decided to introduce the Japanese program, it partnered with Japan Foundation Manila to train Filipino teachers, a task that proved challenging. Franza and Chee of Makati Science High School won third place, representing their school as a pair, during a Japanese quiz bee earlier this year. Agreeing that the program helps foster better relations between the Philippines and Japan, Education Secretary Briones said, "Young people connect to young people, everywhere.


Line plans smart speaker to challenge Amazon, Google

The Japan Times

It's the era of AI," said Jun Masuda, Line's chief strategy and marketing officer, at a news conference in Tokyo, where the company disclosed its strategy going forward. The firm demonstrated a smart speaker named Wave, the first product in its Clova line. Technology and other companies are increasingly entering the smart speaker market. Amazon and Google already sell similar smart speakers named Echo and Google Home, respectively.


Government finds 27 cases of suspected illegal job placement

The Japan Times

The government said Thursday it has confirmed 27 cases of suspected illegal job placement for retired or retiring bureaucrats, but none were conducted systematically as in a previous case at the education ministry. The government announced the results of the probe covering all ministries and agencies, which began in late January after the education ministry scandal came to light. "We did not find any systematic kind of (law) violations," Kozo Yamamoto, minister in charge of civil service reform, said He did not say which ministries and agencies were involved in the misconduct, but according to the secretariat, at least 12 ministries and agencies were involved. Of the 27 cases, 25 involved help to ministry or agency employees in jobs after retirement, while two involved employees themselves seeking future jobs at entities they supervised, according to the Cabinet Secretariat.