Report from Japan:

Leading the way in AI and 5G

FPX went to Tokyo to discover how far the country has come in its 5G implementation, and why Japan is the world’s leading robot developer.

While the western world sometimes tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s close relationship with machines. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other.

Researchers have found that in mid-1600, the military rulers of Japan prohibited using technology to develop new weapons to prevent the rise of new rivals. Artisans focused instead on more innocuous creations, such as mechanical dolls that performed in puppet theaters. In 1875 the doll-maker Tanaka Hisashige started Tanaka Engineering Works, Japan’s first mechanical engineering company. Later it became known by the more familiar name Toshiba.

In Kodaiji temple in Kyoto, a robot has been appointed to teach the principles of Zen Buddhism. Its creators hope the cyber monk will acquire unlimited wisdom over time, while appealing to youths who feel disconnected from religion in Japan.

Kyoto temple puts faith in robot priest

Crazy popular is also Aibo, Sony’s autonomous robot dog that can form an emotional bond with members of the household while providing them with love, affection, and the joy of nurturing and raising a companion.

Aibo can be your friend if you for example are allergic to animals, or travel a lot and have trouble caring for a pet.


“Can I get you a coffee?”. Toyota is developing a service robot aimed to aid the elderly.

Japan’s indigenous religion Shinto could explain part of the country’s fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even man-made objects. Others say that the roots of Japan’s positive view of technology are primarily socioeconomic and historical rather than religious. In the years after WW II, Japan turned to new technologies to rebuild not only its economy but its national self-image. Automation has become a natural part of the manufacturing line, where robots take on repetitive jobs like filling boxes or welding a car frame in the same way day after day.

Japan also have a great focus on deployment of AI and deep learning to solve immediate challenges. Tokyo based AI company Preferred Networks’ recently announced a partnership with Toyota, presenting a service robot that can assist people in everyday life. This could fill a critical need in Japan, where an aging population and tight labor market makes it difficult to ensure there are enough services for the elderly at home, and in health care settings.




5G enabler in the Tokyo Olympics

Japan with telecom giant NTT Docomo is set to be one of the earlier adopters of the fifth-generation mobile communications system 5G in Asia. With 5G Japan aims to realize a high capacity network which is able to support such increase in data traffic with low cost and reduced power consumption. The initial commercial deployment of networks is expected in Tokyo by July 2020, when the capital plays host to the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The games will be a showcase event for operators and technology vendors to demonstrate new use-cases and applications of the next-generation technology, such as 360-degree 8K video feeds from recording devices mounted on the athletes themselves.

As entertaining as that is, the biggest long-term opportunities for 5G in Japan lie in the use for smart city solutions and in managing the ageing demographic. NTT Docomo is conducting extensive research and development to enable the future spread of M2M communications and internet of things (IoT) in several joint ventures.




Remotely driven traffic

Together with Sony, NTT Docomo are working on a conceptual driverless vehicle named Cart SC-1, which leverages 5G mobile technologies for various remotely controlled functions. The tests will verify data transmission and operational performance required to remotely control the cart from a long distance via the extra-high speed, large capacity, low latency and massive-device connectivity. The Cart SC-1 is a highly conceptual vehicle that incorporates AI and robotics technologies developed by Sony. Image sensors that exceed human vision are mounted on the vehicle’s front, rear and both sides to provide the remote driver with high-quality video of the surrounding area, and also to on-board passengers, for example, to show them entertaining augmented-realty scenes of the surrounding area. The 4K digital-sign system can be used for displaying ads and other content in high-quality resolution to passersby.

The electric Concept Cart SC-1 has room for 3 persons and uses artificial intelligence and robotics technologies



In Tokyo, a system for real-time collection and delivery of traffic information using high-definition sensors connected via 5G for advanced driving support is developed. The system networks sensors have been mounted on vehicles and installed along roadsides or in buildings; from each point they collect traffic information that is analyzed in real time and then fed back to drivers and pedestrians

Tokyo is called the food capital of the world, having more Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere else. Of course, the food scene has been robotized as well. At Uobei Sushi near busy crossing Shibuya in central Tokyo, the food is ordered from a screen in front of the guest and delivered from the kitchen by a belt. The only interaction with the staff is when you pay at the end, showing your seat number. In times of virus scares, this is a step towards minimizing people interaction without locking yourself up in your house.

Sushi movie



Greetings from Japan – Malin Hefvelin at Ginza, Tokyo

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