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How AI could be used in disaster preparedness, recovery


Imagine a hurricane has just devastated your town – and flattened your home. Before you could even begin to consider rebuilding, you'd wait weeks – or even months – for a property assessor just to visit to take a look at the damage, let alone unlock the funds you need to get back on your feet. But what if you could take pictures of the damage on the day of the hurricane, using your smartphone, and upload them – and when your insurer receives them, they deposit the funds into your bank account on the same day? If this sounds like the future, it's not – it's happening now. Real-world impact In September 2021, we at Tractable launched our estimating technology for the home, in Japan.

Japanese company joins march back to the moon in 2022

The Japan Times

A Japanese company is pushing ahead with plans to launch a private moon lander by the end of 2022, a year packed with other moonshot ambitions and rehearsals that could foretell how soon humans get back to the lunar surface. If the plans hold, the company, ispace, which is based in Tokyo, would accomplish the first intact landing by a Japanese spacecraft on the moon. And by the time it arrives, it may find other new visitors that already started exploring the moon's regolith this year from Russia and the United States. Other missions in 2022 plan to orbit the moon, particularly the NASA Artemis-1 mission, a crucial uncrewed test of the American hardware that is to carry astronauts back to the moon. South Korea could also launch its first lunar orbiter later this year.

As space race escalates, Japan bolsters defense capabilities in new domains

The Japan Times

In mid-November, Moscow flexed its military muscle by test-launching a missile that struck a Russian satellite, to show that it can fight wars in space. The blast created a large debris field in low-Earth orbit that is expected to pose a threat to satellites and space activities for years to come. Russia is not the only country to have conducted such an anti-satellite missile test. The U.S., China and India have carried out similar tests in the past, and some countries are developing other means to disrupt an adversary's satellite operations, including by jamming their signals or using "killer satellites," the latter of which approach a target satellite and utilize a robotic arm or similar method to capture it and disable its functions. As the new space race escalates, protecting space assets has become vital to a nation's security and economy.

Robo-dogs and therapy bots: Artificial intelligence goes cuddly


As pandemic-led isolation triggers an epidemic of loneliness, Japanese are increasingly turning to "social robots" for solace and mental healing. At the city's Penguin Cafe, proud owners of the electronic dog Aibo gathered recently with their cyber-pups in Snuglis and fancy carryalls. From camera-embedded snouts to their sensor-packed paws, these high-tech hounds are nothing less than members of the family, despite a price tag of close to $3,000 -- mandatory cloud plan not included. It's no wonder Aibo has pawed its way into hearts and minds. Re-launched in 2017, Aibo's artificial intelligence-driven personality is minutely shaped by the whims and habits of its owner, building the kind of intense emotional attachments usually associated with kids, or beloved pets. Noriko Yamada rushed to order one, when her mother-in-law began showing signs of dementia several years ago.

Kishida requests people take basic infection measures during holidays

The Japan Times

One month after Japan's first confirmed case of the omicron variant, concerns are continuing to grow fast with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida requesting people to stay vigilant and to take basic preventive measures during the holiday season. "The omicron variant has been widely spreading around the world. While our nation has placed rigorous border measures, we are also proceeding with bringing forward the booster shots, offering more free PCR testing, introducing oral drugs and securing robust medical care systems with an assumption that the worst-scenario could occur," Kishida said in a video message on Wednesday. As many people are expected to return home, travel and have parties during the year-end to New Year holiday season, the prime minister has asked people to thoroughly take basic measures to avoid infection -- washing their hands, wearing face masks and avoiding the 3Cs (closed spaces, crowds and close-contact situations). Since the first omicron case was confirmed in a quarantine check at an airport on Nov. 30, the number of new COVID-19 infections in Japan has been rising, although the overall number of cases remain relatively small compared with the fifth wave.

Japan Is Implementing Self-Driving Tech Into Most Vehicles By 2022


Japan has started to bolster its pace in the automated driving sector with the likes of well-known brands, including Mazda, Toyota, and even Lexus implementing the technology into their vehicles. Since September, as reported via Bloomberg, Japan has slowly begun integrating self-driving cars to suit rural areas and the elderly better. By 2022, several automobile manufacturers will seek to invite level 2-based self-driving mechanics to their vehicles to assist the country's overall endeavors. There are a total of five main levels of automated driving technology for self-driving cars. At the fifth level, the automobile is fully automated and drives itself.

China lays out five-year plan to be global robotics hub


China has unveiled a five-year plan to drive its ambition of becoming a global innovation hub for robotics by 2025. It hopes to get there by focusing on enhancements in key components such as servomotors and control panels. In releasing the five-year roadmap, China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Tuesday said operating income from the country's robotics industry was projected to grow an average of 20% between 2021 and 2025. This sector expanded at an average annual growth rate of 15% between 2016 and 2020, with operating income passing 100 billion yuan ($15.69 billion) for the first time last year. An executive guide to the technology and market drivers behind the $135 billion robotics market.

Japan's defense budget for 2022 hits record for eighth year

The Japan Times

The Cabinet approved a defense budget Friday of ¥5.40 trillion ($47 billion) for fiscal 2022, setting a record high for the eighth consecutive year, to advance the development of new technologies in the face of China's growing military might and the North Korean nuclear threat. The draft budget, including outlays for hosting U.S. military bases, rose 1.1% from the current fiscal year ending in March as Japan ramps up its defense capabilities. The increase for a 10th year in a row is largely attributable to a sharp rise in research and development spending, for which the Defense Ministry has earmarked ¥291.1 billion, up ¥79.6 billion, or 37.6%, from a year earlier. The ministry will invest in advanced technologies, such as crewless planes that use artificial intelligence to fly in teams with next-generation fighter jets. "As the security environment surrounding Japan has been changing at an unprecedented speed and becoming increasingly severe, it is an urgent task for Japan to strengthen its necessary defense capabilities," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said at a news conference.

Robot density nearly doubled globally


The use of industrial robots in factories around the world is accelerating at a high rate: 126 robots per 10,000 employees is the new average of global robot density in the manufacturing industries – nearly double the number five years ago (2015: 66 units). This is according to the 2021 World Robot Report. By regions, the average robot density in Asia/Australia is 134 units, in Europe 123 units and in the Americas 111 units. The top 5 most automated countries in the world are: South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Sweden. "Robot density is the barometer to track the degree of automation adoption in the manufacturing industry around the world," says Milton Guerry, President of the International Federation of Robotics.

Japan and U.S. block advancement in U.N. talks on autonomous weapons

The Japan Times

GENEVA – Japan, the United States and other countries have blocked any advancement in U.N. talks toward legally binding measures to ban and regulate the development and use of lethal autonomous weapon systems. The Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons ended Friday in Geneva without progress, failing to reflect eight years of work and leaving countries and nongovernmental organizations that have called for legally binding rules expressing disappointment. Also referred to as "killer robots," autonomous weapons are artificial intelligence-powered weapons using facial recognition and algorithms. Once activated, the weapons can select and attack targets without the assistance of a human operator. They pose ethical, legal and security risks.