The Japan Times


Grab and go: Amazon opens Seattle store with no cashiers

The Japan Times

SEATTLE – No cashiers, no registers and no cash -- this is how Amazon sees the future of store shopping. The online retailer opened its Amazon Go concept to the public Monday in Seattle, which lets shoppers take milk, potato chips or ready-to-eat salads off its shelves and just walk out. Amazon's technology charges customers after they leave. "It's such a weird experience, because you feel like you're stealing when you go out the door," said Lisa Doyle, who visited the shop. Amazon employees have been testing the store, on the bottom floor of the company's Seattle headquarters, for about a year.


Japan: A frontrunner to solve social challenges

The Japan Times

Achieving sustainable growth while coping with a population decline calls for "Society 5.0," a super smart society where we can resolve various social challenges by incorporating the innovations of the fourth industrial revolution such as the "internet of things," big data, artificial intelligence, robots and the sharing economy into every industry and society. Japan, in a sense, is far ahead of the rest of the world in realizing this new society, as it is compelled to do so. About 27.3 percent of Japan's 127 million people were aged 65 or higher in 2016, with the ratio expected to reach 38.4 percent by 2065, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. The country's medical expenses are also expected to increase. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported ¥41.3 trillion in medical costs in fiscal 2016, and they are expected to increase to ¥57.8 trillion by fiscal 2025, according to the National Federation of Health Insurance Societies.


Innovative maps show relationships among key issues

The Japan Times

In 2016, World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab proclaimed the fourth industrial revolution as a distinct evolution from its predecessor because of the rapid onset of ubiquitous change. This revolution -- the current environment in which disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the "internet of things," among others -- is profoundly changing the way we live and work. The complexity and scale of such change have seen the need for new means and approaches to linking intelligence, understanding and specialists at the global level. Transformation Maps, a collaborative digital tool developed by the WEF available in English, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese that harnesses knowledge, charts interactions and analyzes links between industries, countries and issues that are shaping the world, may very well be the platform to do so. According to Jeremy Jurgens, managing director and head of knowledge and digital engagement at the Swiss-based non-profit, Transformation Maps are certainly a solution made only available because of the accelerated change brought about as part of the current industrial revolution.


Working to build a shared future in a 'fractured world'

The Japan Times

As the global environment has changed dramatically today with geopolitical fissures, technological advances and a shared economy, the World Economic Forum's annual meeting will kick off on Jan. 23 in Davos, Switzerland, with more than 3,000 of the world's influential and wealthy individuals coming from 100 countries. This year's meeting in the snow-capped Alpine town will focus on the theme of "Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World," which will see discussions on possible solutions to the rifts that have emerged politically, economically and societally. "Creating a shared future in a fractured world requires addressing issues on the global agenda in a holistic, interconnected and future-oriented way," said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF. "Our annual meeting in Davos provides an exceptional platform for collaboration to create new global initiatives." One of the highlights of the four-day meeting will be the expected attendance of major political leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump.


Drone rescue off Australian beach heralded as world-first

The Japan Times

CANBERRA – A flying drone has dropped a flotation device to two teens caught in a riptide in heavy seas off the Australian coast in what officials describe as a world-first rescue. Monty Greenslade and Gabe Vidler got into trouble on Thursday at Lennox Head, 750 kilometers (470 miles) north of Sydney. They were about a kilometer (0.6 mile) from lifeguards who were about to start training with the new drones, equipped with a camera, rescue gear and six rotors. After a friend raised the alert, lifeguard Jai Sheridan said he piloted the drone to the swimmers and dropped a rescue pod minutes faster than lifeguards could have reached the pair by conventional means. "I was able to launch it, fly it to the location, and drop the pod all in about one to two minutes.


Key U.S. science panel backs lower drunken driving threshold and higher alcohol taxes

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – A prestigious scientific panel is recommending that states significantly lower their drunken driving thresholds as part of a blueprint to eliminate the "entirely preventable" 10,000 alcohol-impaired driving deaths in the United States each year. The U.S. government-commissioned, 489-page report by a panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released Wednesday throws the weight of the scientific body behind lowering the blood-alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state's threshold to 0.05 doesn't go into effect until Dec. 30. The amount of alcohol required to reach 0.05 would depend on several factors, including the person's size and whether the person has recently eaten.


Kojien dictionary definition for 'LGBT' criticized for inaccuracy by advocates

The Japan Times

The publisher of Kojien, the nation's most authoritative dictionary, has drawn complaints from advocates for sexual minorities for incorrectly defining the term, "LGBT," in its latest edition released Friday. "Lesbian," "gay" and "bisexual" are terms used to describe sexual orientations, while "transgender" is used to "describe people whose gender identity does not match the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth." But the seventh edition of Kojien failed to separate the meaning of "lesbian," "gay" and "bisexual," from "transgender," defining the meaning of "LGBT" collectively as "people whose sexual orientations are different from the majority." Following its release, many LGBT advocates took to Twitter and Facebook to point out the mistake, urging the publisher to make a correction. Iwanami Shoten, the publisher, admitted the inaccuracy, saying the explanation of the term was "insufficient."


Lifelike robots made in Hong Kong meant to win over humans

The Japan Times

HONG KONG – David Hanson envisions a future in which AI-powered robots evolve to become "super-intelligent genius machines" that might help solve some of mankind's most challenging problems. If only it were as simple as that. The Texas-born former sculptor at Walt Disney Imagineering and his Hong Kong-based startup Hanson Robotics are combining artificial intelligence with southern China's expertise in toy design, electronics and manufacturing to craft humanoid "social robots" with faces designed to be lifelike and appealing enough to win trust from humans who interact with them. Hanson, 49, is perhaps best known as the creator of Sophia, a talk show-going robot partly modeled on Audrey Hepburn that he calls his "masterpiece." Akin to an animated mannequin, she seems as much a product of his background in theatrics as an example of advanced technology.


AI-based story-summarizing system to debut at Nagano daily

The Japan Times

Fujitsu Ltd. said Monday that it will provide the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, a regional Japanese newspaper, with a system that automatically summarizes articles using artificial intelligence. Using the system developed by the electronics maker, summarizing jobs will be finished in an instant, versus 3 to 5 minutes per article if done by hand, according to Fujitsu. The newspaper's publisher, based in Nagano, will use the system in its news distribution services for cable TV starting in April. The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun currently delivers some 60 summarized reports each day that are a maximum of 150 characters long for CATV viewers in the prefecture. In developing the system, Fujitsu applied machine learning to about 2,500 sets of past newspaper articles and their summaries so the system could become capable of picking out important sentences within an article.


Airbnb becoming rural income source from India to Japan

The Japan Times

A women's organization in the western Indian state of Gujarat has tied up with Airbnb, the short-term home rental service, to train rural women to be hosts and list their homes on its site. A year in, the number of women earning from home sharing has doubled, according to the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA), which has about 2 million members, mostly in villages. "At first, we weren't sure how the women would fare and if people would respond to home stays in these areas," said Reema Nanavaty, a director at SEWA. "But once they began getting guests, the women invested in upgrading their homes and started using Google Translate to communicate with guests. It has become a significant source of income for them," she said. Guests to the colorful homes are treated to home-cooked Gujarati food, and can participate in kite flying and garba dancing with sticks in traditional costume, she said.