The Japan Times


Trump questions whether Japan's first lady can speak English

The Japan Times

But during a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump kicked off an unexpected debate about Japan's first lady: Can Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, speak English? "So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe, who I think is a terrific guy, and she's a terrific woman, but doesn't speak English," Trump was quoted as saying by the Times on Wednesday. Several U.S. media outlets immediately responded, pointing to an online video of Akie's 15-minute speech in English on Sept. 25, 2014, at the Ford Foundation in New York. The Japan Times contacted the Foreign Ministry seeking a comment from Akie Abe for this article but none was available before publication.


Self-driving tractors soon to make tracks in Japan as aging farmers face labor shortage

The Japan Times

OSAKA – Major Japanese agricultural machinery makers are preparing to launch full-fledged sales of self-driving tractors, possibly in fiscal 2018, which starts April 1. Yanmar expects that autonomous tractors will come into wider use if the new satellite, which is slated to begin operating in fiscal 2018, can help boost tractor positioning accuracy and farmers' work efficiency. Based on this prospect, Kubota plans to release fully unmanned autonomous agricultural machinery. The self-driving tractors launched by Kubota on a trial basis last month are priced at ¥9.7 million to ¥11 million, about 50 percent more expensive than conventional tractors.


SoftBank's Masayoshi Son sees AI powered by massive data revolutionizing the future

The Japan Times

Other robots will be able to carry heavy loads, said Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics chief executive. Another of Son's partner ventures, Guardant Health, offers blood biopsies, which are safer and quicker than tissue biopsies, to detect cancers in their early stages. "Those who rule chips will rule the entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world."


Startup touts neuro-stimulation as 'medicine for the brain'

The Japan Times

According to California startup Halo Neuroscience, the device can help improve the performance of athletes, pilots and surgeons, and potentially help rehabilitation for stroke victims. By stimulating the motor cortex, Chao says the Halo device can "extract latent potential" in the brain to improve performance for people who rely on making quick decisions and movements such as athletes. The San Francisco startup has also concluded deals with the San Francisco Giants baseball team and the U.S. Olympic ski team to integrate Halo in training programs. Chao, who trained as a doctor and studied neuroscience at Stanford, previously worked at a startup called Neuro Pace, which uses electrical stimulation to treat epilepsy.


mayor-soichiro-takashima-envisions-fukuoka-living-lab-internet-things

The Japan Times

Fukuoka Mayor Soichiro Takashima hopes to make his city a living laboratory for such cutting-edge technology. About 70 percent of the city will be covered by the LoRaWAN network this fiscal year, setting a wide testing ground for future services. True, it's difficult to find a place to test these technologies in a real-life environment as it often requires social infrastructure and the removal of legal restrictions. The city of Fukuoka also carried out two drone tests last November and December between the city center and Nokonoshima Island in the middle of Hakata Bay, about 2.5 km offshore.


Smart speakers powered by voice agents seen ushering in era of AI

The Japan Times

Other internet giants, including Microsoft and Alibaba, have also announced they will launch smart speakers, while Line Corp., Japan's messaging app giant, will be promoting its AI engine, Clova. Smart speakers enable users to speak to the devices more easily than smartphones, experts say. Asked if other electronics devices, such as TVs, could be AI-powered, Maita said tech firms probably think the speakers are good devices as a starting point to introduce their AI voice agents. They are aiming to create new markets for voice-based AI systems, just like Google and Apple crafted huge app markets for smartphones.


Shogi: A measure of artificial intelligence

The Japan Times

As outlined by Toru Takeda in the Nov. 22 online version of Asahi Shimbun, the JSA checked the moves Miura had made in previous games against moves made by popular shogi software to see if there was a pattern. By studying the way shogi programs played, Miura had likely appropriated the AI function's own learning curve. Amahiko Sato, one of the game's highest ranked players, has played the shogi robot Ponanza several times without a victory. "It's like using a shovel to compete with a bulldozer," Yoshiharu Habu, Japan's top shogi player, commented to NHK after describing Ponanza's moves as "unbelievable."


Drone pilot classes in demand as skilled operators needed for disaster response

The Japan Times

In March, a drone pilot school in the city of Kai, Yamanashi Prefecture, operated by the Japan Aviation Academy, lowered the age eligible for entrance from 20 to 16. As of the end of May, more than 100 such schools were operating in Japan, according to the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association and the Drone Pilot Association. In June, the Yamanashi Survey and Planning Association began sending employees of its member companies to the drone pilot school to improve their skills. Tomoyuki Kumada, secretary-general of the Japan UAS Industrial Development Association, said the use of drones in the industrial field has just begun.


We need to talk about sex, robot experts say

The Japan Times

LONDON – Move over blow-up dolls, the sex robots are here. In a report on the growing market in sex robots, the Foundation for Responsible Robotics said rapidly advancing technologies have already led to the creation of "android love dolls" capable of performing 50 automated sexual positions. Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at Britain's University of Sheffield, said it is difficult to predict how far or fast the market would grow, or what its effect on societies might be in years ahead. It found "major disagreement" on this question, with some arguing that having sex with a robot would reduce attackers' desires to harm fellow humans, and others arguing that allowing people to live out their darkest fantasies with robots would have a pernicious effect on societal norms.


Robots to aid tourists, clean floors at major South Korean airport

The Japan Times

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – Robots will start roaming South Korea's largest airport this summer, helping travelers find their boarding gates and keep its floors clean as the country prepares for its first Winter Olympics. Starting this month, Troika, a self-driving robot made by LG Electronics, will rove the Incheon International Airport, telling travelers how long it takes to get to boarding gates and escorting them to their flights. Another state-owned airport operator, Korea Airports Corp., which operates 15 international airports in South Korea -- but not the one at Incheon-- also has teamed up with local companies to introduce air-purifying robots to measure air quality and clean terminals. South Korea expects the robots to burnish its reputation as a technology leader when the country hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.