NEVADA – It's been a while since a new TV raised any eyebrows, but Sony Corp. has just unveiled a new product that's creating a bit of buzz at the annual Consumer Electronics Show industry gathering in Las Vegas. Sony's XBR-A1E Bravia 4K is the electronics maker's first commercial foray into the niche market for televisions that use OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, technology. While the vivid, power-sipping screens have found their way onto smartphones, the cost of making them has so far limited their appeal for TVs. Only LG Electronics Inc. has made a serious effort to sell OLED TVs. Panasonic Corp. also unveiled an OLED TV at this year's CES.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to launch a test soon to determine whether artificial intelligence can help bureaucrats write draft answers for questions made to Cabinet ministers and others during deliberations in the Diet. The ministry is considering using AI to draw up challenges and debate points for policy issues -- using Diet proceedings in the past five years as a guide -- in the hopes of improving work efficiency. The ministry, which has promoted what it calls the "fourth industrial revolution" that utilizes AI and the internet of things, is looking to set an example that would spread the use of AI in other government agencies and ministries. Bureaucrats often spend long hours drafting answers to Diet questions, with the work often continuing until dawn on the day they are used. In the Kasumigaseki government district in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, close attention is being paid to whether the industry ministry's AI-related initiative will help reduce these long work hours.
WASHINGTON – Ford scuttled a plan to build a new factory in Mexico Tuesday following criticism from Donald Trump, and just hours after the president-elect attacked General Motors for importing Mexican-made cars into the US. Following months of criticism from Trump for its investments in Mexico, Ford said it was spiking a plan to build a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, and would instead invest $700 million over the next four years to expand its Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan to build electric and self-driving vehicles. Ford chief executive Mark Fields said the second-biggest U.S. automaker was hopeful Trump's policies will boost the U.S. manufacturing environment. "It's literally a vote of confidence around some of the pro-growth policies that he has been outlining and that's why we're making this decision to invest here in the U.S. and our plant here in Michigan," Fields told CNN. Earlier, GM became the latest multinational to end up in Trump's line of fire -- via Twitter as usual -- with the president-elect threatening to impose a tariff on GM's imports of a small number of Mexican-made Chevy Cruze cars to the U.S. Trump took to Twitter again to crow about the Ford reversal.
The Japan Times newsroom selected these tech and digital stories as the most important of 2016. All systems go: For a few weeks in the summer, it seemed to be all that anyone was talking about was "Pokemon Go," an augmented-reality game you play on your phone. The game was the result of a collaboration between Nintendo and Niantic. With China's Alibaba offering the world's first virtual reality shopping experience, it seems the race for dominance has just begun. Insiders believe driverless cars will become a hot topic in 2017 as Japan hopes to showcase self-driving vehicles at the 2020 Olympics.
A withering factory town in the rust belt is looking for revival through a dose of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "robot revolution." Kadoma's population in Osaka Prefecture has shrunk 13 percent as the nation ages, prompting mergers among elementary schools and emergency services departments. Factories can't find enough people to run assembly lines, further threatening an industrial base that includes titan Panasonic Corp. and smaller businesses like Izumo Co., a maker of industrial rubber. Yet Izumo President Tsutomu Otsubo doesn't believe the solution involves finding more people. He'd rather find more machines to do the work so his company can capitalize on Abe's plan to quadruple Japan's robotics sector into a ¥2.4 trillion ($20 billion) industry by 2020.
SAN FRANCISCO – Apple has revealed it is investing heavily in autonomous vehicles in a letter asking the government to make it easier to develop self-driving cars. The company is "excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation," Apple said in a November 22 letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offering Apple's opinion about draft regulations for the sector. "Apple looks forward to collaborating with NHTSA and other stakeholders so that the significant societal benefits of automated vehicles can be realized safely, responsibly, and expeditiously," the company's director of product integrity Steve Kenner wrote. Apple issued the letter because it is "investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems," an Apple spokesman said in an email. "There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation, so we want to work with NHTSA to help define the best practices for the industry."
Squse Inc., a maker of robotic hands that can handle food, plans an initial public offering in Tokyo as early as next year to fund overseas expansion, according to people with knowledge of the matter. INCJ, set up in 2009 to help make Japan's technology industry more competitive, agreed in 2014 to spend as much as 500 million to buy a minority stake in Squse, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The IPO and expansion plans coincide with a rapid increase in demand globally for industrial robotics technology. Chinese appliance maker Midea Group Co. said last week it was seeking to increase its stake in German industrial robot maker Kuka AG.
Japan will not impose time and place restrictions on autonomous driving tests on public roads, according to draft guidelines released by the National Police Agency last week. In some U.S. states, autonomous driving tests require permission. Under the guidelines, those planning to test autonomous driving vehicles are urged to conduct driving tests at experimental facilities before moving on to public roads. Public road tests should be conducted in stages, starting with places that have few pedestrians, the guidelines said.
The Federal Aviation Administration currently prohibits most commercial drone flights over populated areas, especially crowds. The recommendations call for creating four categories of small drones that commercial operators can fly over people, including crowds in some cases. The committee was made up of 27 companies or trade associations, including drone manufacturers and companies that want to fly drones, as well as airline and private pilots, airports, crop dusting companies and helicopter operators. The Air Line Pilots Association and trade associations for the helicopter and crop dusting industries wanted to require that all commercial drone operators pass an aviation knowledge test administered in person by the FAA and receive a background check from the Transportation Security Administration, according to an industry official familiar with the discussions.