Collaborating Authors


AI leverages Fugaku's power to develop a Tsunami prediction tool


It was last summer that I wrote about the Japanese computing giant'Fugaku' surpassing the American reigning champion Summit to become the fastest supercomputer in the World. Since then, Fugaku has solidified its position at the top spot -- according to the 56th edition of the TOP500 list published in Nov. 2020, its capacity has increased from 7,299,072 cores to 7,630,848 cores, posting a new world record 442 petaflops result on HPL. The most powerful supercomputer by RIKEN Center for Computational Science & Fujitsu has now been engaged in developing a real-world prediction tool. In a multinational collaborative endeavor, The International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University, the Earthquake Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, and Fujitsu Laboratories have come together to develop an AI model that will be able to predict tsunami flooding in coastal areas in near real-time. This could be a real handy tool for disaster management teams.

Suzuki Motor chairman to retire after leading firm for over 40 years

The Japan Times

Suzuki Motor Corp. Chairman Osamu Suzuki will retire after leading the Japanese automaker for more than 40 years and making it into a global player with an overwhelming dominance in the Indian car market, the firm said Wednesday. The 91-year-old chairman will leave the post at a shareholders meeting slated for June and become an adviser, it said. Suzuki has served as either president, chairman or CEO of the company, known for its minivehicles and motorcycles, since 1978. "I decided to give way to successors to promote a midterm business plan," which the Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture-based company released the same day, Suzuki said during an online news conference. He added that the company's 100-year anniversary last year also prompted his decision to step down from the chairman's post.

What we can learn from Japan's adoption of robots in the service sector


Robots hold polar extremes in economic narrative and popular imagination. One narrative depicts a looming dystopian future with robots and other forms of automation increasingly replacing human workers, depressing wages (Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014), feeding inequality, and contributing to further'deaths of despair' (Case and Deaton 2020, Mulligan 2021). In counter-imaginations, robots embody innovative technology spurring productivity and freeing workers from repetitive, strenuous, monotonous work while helping to relieve labour shortages arising from ageing populations. Such demographic challenges are salient particularly in higher-income countries farther along in the demographic transition, such as the OECD nations, where populations in 18 out of the 36 countries are projected to decline by 2055. These nations face rising old-age dependency ratios, declining employment-to-population ratios, and challenges in providing services to the growing number of frail older adults.

Toyota begins construction of smart city near Mount Fuji

The Japan Times

NAGOYA – Toyota Motor Corp. on Tuesday began construction of a smart city at the foot of Mount Fuji in central Japan as a testing ground for new technologies including robotics and artificial intelligence. About 360 people including Toyota employees will initially move to the so-called Woven City to be built at the 70.8-hectare former Toyota factory site in Susono, Shizuoka Prefecture. It will be powered by electricity from fuel cells, which derive power from a hydrogen-oxygen reaction, in addition to solar panels. Toyota describes the city -- run with partner companies such as telecommunications giant Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. -- as a "living laboratory" where it will test autonomous vehicles, robots and artificial intelligence in a real-world environment. The automaker has commissioned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, who designed the 2 World Trade Center in New York City and Google's headquarters in California, to plan the layout of the city.

Honda appoints Japan R&D chief Toshihiro Mibe as new CEO

The Japan Times

Honda Motor Co. is promoting its current head of research and development Toshihiro Mibe to chief executive, the latest in a number of bold moves the automaker is taking to step beyond its more than half-a-century-long reliance on selling gasoline-powered cars. Mibe, 59, will also assume the president role effective April 1, the company said in a statement Friday. Honda's current CEO Takahiro Hachigo, who helmed the firm for six years, will become a director as of that date and then retire from the company at its general meeting in June. Honda's new chief is taking the top job as the Japanese carmaker pushes to stay abreast of the two great shifts hitting the auto industry: automation and electrification. Since joining Honda in 1987, Mibe has occupied various roles, including as the chief of Honda's R&D subsidiary, where he was central to driving the company's electric vehicle technologies and autonomous driving strategies.

How Apple and Bandai tried selling dreams to kids and the internet to adults


The early 90s were pretty grim for Apple. Employees didn't feel great about then-CEO John Sculley's hands-off leadership, and lots of the company's cash -- too much, perhaps -- was tied up in R&D for projects that either wouldn't connect with the market, or failed to see the light of day. Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away, one of Japan's biggest toymakers was grappling with change of its own. To Bandai CEO Makoto Yamashina, his business was about being a "servant to children", and those children wanted to play video games. This is the story of how two strikingly different companies decided to work toward a common goal: building a home video game console.

AI has remastered Rick Astley's 'Never Gonna Give You Up' in glorious 4K


Word of warning, prepare to be rickrolled like you've never been rickrolled in the past. Thanks to AI software, you can now troll your friends with Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" in crisp UHD. CNET spotted the video, which was uploaded by YouTube user Revideo at the end of January only to be recently discovered by the internet at large this week. Revideo said they used Topaz Video Enhance, an AI-powered program for upscaling video, to remaster the clip in 4K and RIFE (Flowframes) to smooth it out to 60 frames per second. We've seen other people like Denis Shiryaev use similar software to update an 1896 silent film and a tour of Tokyo from before the First World War.

Automating boring tasks made these Japan startup founders rich

The Japan Times

Japan's hot startup stocks have two things in common: They do business in areas that could be described as mundane, and they've pushed their founders into the league of the ultrawealthy. Take AI Inside Inc., which helps turn handwritten documents into electronic files. Or Rakus Co., whose goal is to help small and midsize enterprises with their bookkeeping and emailing services. Their shares have all more than doubled in the past year, enriching their founders and leading to talk of a burgeoning tech scene that's very different from Silicon Valley. While the companies are using technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud computing, they're applying them in less sexy ways.

The Nikkei is back at 30,000. But it's a whole different world.

The Japan Times

The last time stocks in Tokyo were this high, things were a little different. Orders now silently processed in milliseconds were shouted across smoky open outcry trading floors. Yuriko Koike, now Tokyo's governor, was a fresh-faced TV presenter on the country's leading business news show. The U.S. fretted over "Japan as number one," while China was an economic backwater. That's how long it's been since the 225-issue Nikkei stock average of the Tokyo Stock Exchange passed 30,000, an event which first took place in December 1988.

Robots are clawing their way into our future


From its roots as a convention where manufacturers met with dealers to secure orders, CES primarily features products that companies have on a firm shipping schedule. But the show also has its share of tantalizing teases. Some of these are products on the precipice of availability such as the NEC LaVie mini (which seems to be edging toward commercialization for Japan) and last year's Wearable Display (which TCL announced will be commercialized this year) and perhaps even Sony's returning and now road-ready Vision-S concept vehicle (which is already only slightly harder to get your hands on as a PlayStation 5). Some are more outlandish (like GM's flying car, which took the torch from the flying taxis Uber and Hyundai proposed last year), and some are more moderate, like Project Brooklyn, a tricked-out gamer chair with a retractable 60-inch OLED display shown by Razer. That latter camp is the more likely home of at least one robot Samsung showed off at CES: the Bot Handy.