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JR East to deploy robotic baristas at Tokyo and Yokohama stations

The Japan Times

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) will start testing fully autonomous robotic baristas this December to serve coffee at its Tokyo and Yokohama stations, in a tie-up with a Singaporean retail technology startup. The company said the planned test-marketing involves the Ella robotic barista system developed by Crown Technologies Holding Pte. Ltd., which has had a business partnership with the railway operator since late last year. The unmanned system serves coffee through an automated ordering, serving and cashless payment process. It can serve more than 200 types of blended coffee and allows customers to use dedicated apps and railway-related IC cards for payment. JR East expects the upcoming market research at two of the busiest stations in Japan to pave the way for it to provide loyal customers with customized coffee by using artificial intelligence analysis of their preferences.

Facebook Apologizes For Embarrassing Mistake Caused By A.I.


In this photo illustration Facebook logo can be seen, Kolkata, India, 28 February, 2020. Facebook ... [ ] Inc on Thursday announced its decision to cancel its annual developer conference due to Coronavirus outbreak according a news media report. Some crisis situations are caused by what people say or do. On occasion, a crisis--or an embarrassing incident--is caused by technology. The New York Times reported yesterday that, "Facebook users who recently watched a video from a British tabloid featuring Black men saw an automated prompt from the social network that asked if they would like to'keep seeing videos about Primates', causing the company to investigate and disable the artificial intelligence-powered feature that pushed the message. "This was clearly an unacceptable error and we disabled the entire topic recommendation feature as soon as we realized this was happening so we could investigate the cause and prevent this from happening again," Facebook spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement to USA Today. "As we have said, while we have made improvements to our AI, we know it's not perfect and we have more progress to make," she said. "We apologize to anyone who may have seen these offensive recommendations." This is not the first time that advanced technology has created an embarrassing situation for an organization. The Washington Post reported yesterday that "a judge ruled that Apple will have to continue fighting a lawsuit brought by users in federal court in California, alleging that the company's voice assistant Siri has improperly recorded private conversations." Last week at the Paralympics in Tokyo, Toyota self-driving pods injured a pedestrian. Reuters reported that, "In a YouTube video, Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda apologized for the incident and said he offered to meet the person but was unable to do so.

Two years since deadly Tokyo crash, more older Japanese giving up driver's licenses

The Japan Times

The number of people who voluntarily give up their driver's licenses has continued to surge in Japan since an older driver struck and killed a mother and her daughter, and injured nine others, in Tokyo in 2019. The driver, Kozo Iizuka, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison. The 2019 tragedy raised public awareness of accidents involving older drivers. The number of people who voluntarily surrendered their driver's licenses in 2019 rose by about 180,000 from the previous year to a record of about 600,000, according to data compiled by the National Police Agency. Drivers age 75 or older accounted for around 60% of the total.

Toyota's self-driving shuttles return to the Paralympics following crash


Toyota's e-Palette is back in service. As Roadshow reports, the automaker has resumed use of its self-driving shuttle at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo following a collision with a visually impaired athlete. Not surprisingly, both Toyota and the games' Organizing Committee have made changes in light of the crash -- they've determined that both the autonomous vehicle and the circumstances around it were to blame. The company noted there were only two guide people at the intersection where the collision occurred, making it difficult for them to watch all vehicles and pedestrians at the same time. It simply wasn't possible to ensure safety at this signal-free intersection without everyone working together, Toyota said.

Tokyo 2020: Toyota restarts driverless vehicles after accident

BBC News

In a statement late on Monday Toyota said: "The vehicle's sensor detected the pedestrian crossing and activated the automatic brake, and the operator also activated the emergency brake. The vehicle and pedestrians, however, came into contact before it came to a complete halt."

Toyota to restart self-driving Olympic village vehicles with more safety staff

The Japan Times

Toyota Motor Corp. said on Monday it would resume operations of its self-driving e-Palette pods at the athletes village for the Tokyo Paralympics with greater operator control and more safety staff to ensure they do not hit any more people. The e-Palettes were halted after one of the vehicles collided with and injured a visually impaired Japanese athlete at a junction last week, prompting an apology from Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda. "The vehicle's sensor detected the pedestrian crossing and activated the automatic brake, and the operator also activated the emergency brake. The vehicle and pedestrians, however, came into contact before it came to a complete halt," Toyota said in a statement Monday. Aramitsu Kitazono was not seriously injured in the incident, but had to pull out of the judo event on Saturday because of cuts and bruises, further embarrassing the company, which along with other global automakers is trying to develop autonomous vehicles that can operate safely on public roads.

Toyota pauses Paralympics self-driving buses after one hits visually impaired athlete

The Guardian

Toyota has apologised for the "overconfidence" of a self-driving bus after it ran over a Paralympic judoka in the athletes' village and said it would temporarily suspend the service. The Japanese athlete, Aramitsu Kitazono, will be unable to compete in his 81kg category this weekend after being left with cuts and bruises following the impact with the "e-Palette" vehicle. His injuries prompted a personal intervention from the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda. As part of its sponsorship of Tokyo 2020, Toyota has been showcasing its autonomous vehicles via a shuttle service, which has been running around the clock in the athletes' village. On Thursday, however, one of the buses pulled away from a T-junction and drove through a pedestrian crossing while Kitazono, a visually impaired athlete, was walking across.

Toyota pulls self-driving e-Palettes from the Paralympics following a crash


Four days into the Tokyo Paralympic Games, Toyota removed its self-driving e-Palette vehicles from the event following a collision with a pedestrian. The automaker made the decision Friday, according to Reuters, a day after one of the pods hit a visually impaired athlete who was walking nearby. According to a video statement from Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, reported in English by Reuters, the vehicle had stopped at a junction and was about to turn under manual control from an onboard operator when it hit the pedestrian at one or two kilometers-per-hour. The identity of the athlete has not been released to the public. Toyota first announced its plans to deploy e-Palettes at the games in October 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic forced the organizers of the Olympics to delay the 2020 games by a year.

Intriguing and Inventive Robot Designs that prove artificial intelligence is here to stay + make the world a better place!


Artificial Intelligence has catapulted in recent years, and the advancements being made in this field make me feel as if it won't be long before we have robots walking amongst us all the time! There was a point in time when the only forms of robots that we could see were toys or vacuum cleaners, or if we were lucky an AI-enabled lawnmower in some tech-trendy individual's backyard! But we have come a long long way since then. From a basketball-playing Japanese robot at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics to a Microsoft-powered robot that cleans up littered cigarette butts on the beach – the potential and scope of robots grow exponentially day by day. The world at large is slowly moving away from the perception of robots as evil beings who want to take over the Earth, and accepting that they may have vast and undeniable utility in even our day-to-day lives.

Tokyo robot cafe offers new spin on disability inclusion

The Japan Times

At a Tokyo cafe, Michio Imai greets a customer, but not in person. Dawn cafe's robots are intended to be more than a gimmick, offering job opportunities to people who find it hard to work outside the home. How are you?" a sleek white robot shaped like a baby penguin calls from a counter near the entrance, turning its face to customers and waving its flippers. Imai is behind the controls at his home in Hiroshima, 800 km away, one of around 50 employees with physical and mental disabilities who work as Dawn's "pilots," operating robot staff. The cafe opened in central Tokyo's Nihonbashi district in June and employs staff across Japan and overseas, as well as some who work on site. It was originally supposed to open last year to coincide with the Paralympics, but the opening was postponed by the pandemic -- just like the Games, which began on Tuesday. Around 20 miniature robots with almond-shaped eyes sit on tables and in other parts of the cafe, which has no stairs and smooth wooden floors large enough for wheelchairs. The machines named OriHime feature cameras, a microphone and a speaker to allow operators to communicate with customers remotely. "May I take your order?" one asks, next to a tablet showing a menu of burgers, curry and salad. As customers chat with the pilots operating the mini robots, three larger, humanoid versions move around to serve drinks or welcome customers at the entrance. And there's even a barista robot in a brown apron at the bar that can make coffee with a French press. But the robots are largely a medium through which workers can communicate with customers. "I talk to our customers about many subjects, including the weather, my hometown and my health condition," said Imai, who has a somatic symptom disorder that makes leaving home difficult. "As long as I'm alive, I want to give something back to the community by working.