Automation has become part of the global manufacturing line, where robots take on repetitive jobs, like filling boxes or welding a car frame in the same way, day after day. But what if robots could step away from their limited range of tasks, and start to problem solve in complex operational situations, like spotting a malfunction on the assembly line or identifying a better compound for a part? And how could robots enabled with "deep learning" – where algorithms learn from large amounts of data collected via experience – begin to share insights with other robots, to increase innovation in all kinds of settings, from factories to self-driving cars on the road to early cancer detection and drug discovery in hospitals? These questions are the focus of Preferred Networks, a cutting-edge artificial intelligence company founded in 2014. The Tokyo-based firm, which is worth roughly $2 billion, according to CB Insights, is a symbol of Japan's sweeping strategic innovation initiative, where AI and robotics are viewed as keys to both solving social issues and achieving new economic growth.
DeNA Co., best known as a mobile video game maker, said on Thursday it will launch a driverless bus service at a park in Chiba Prefecture from next month. The Tokyo-based firm said it has partnered with EasyMile S.A., a French startup that manufactures self-driving buses. There are not many firms that can provide "completely driverless vehicles that can be used for actual services," said Hiroshi Nakajima, who heads DeNA's automotive business, explaining why his company chose to partner with EasyMile. DeNA's new service will employ the company's EZ10 bus, an electric vehicle that can accommodate 12 people. The limited-time service, dubbed Robot Shuttle, will begin on a yet-to-be-determined date in August inside the 21,000 sq.-meter Toyosuna Park in Chiba's Makuhari district, adjacent to vast Aeon shopping complex.