AI development is racing ahead in Japan and around the world

Dr Samuel Barbosa Da Cunha - AI Development

AI development is racing ahead in Japan and around the world

The race to functional AI (artificial intelligence) around the world is on. And the current rapid increase in the sector is underpinned by the re-examination of deep learning.

Around 15 years ago, the concept of deep learning came up against enough challenges to be quickly abandoned. Deep learning in this context is a subsection of machine learning which in turn is subsection of AI. Within deep learning, artificial neural networks that work in the same way as a human brain, actively learn and develop using massive amounts of data.

AI development and the potential of deep learning

Today, the circumstances for deep learning are more favourable and the field is flourishing. This increase in activity in the AI sector means more economic and technological competition between nations. And this in turn has led many major economies to create national AI strategies.

Current leaders in the field of AI development are the US and China, but Japan is also on an upward trajectory. But there is something that sets Japan apart from other economies when it comes to the race towards AI.

Japan has a consistent concept that underscores all relevant legislation, and it’s called Society 5.0. This new society is one that is completely saturated with AI and AI-related technology. The idea is that the tech improves the lives of people but also creates entirely new values. Under Society 5.0, the needs of individual people can be met quickly and appropriately, something that would improve general levels of contentment.

Japan’s AI Strategy 2019 had society 5.0 as the ultimate targeted outcome. The strategy unveiled many of the actions that are necessary to develop AI and furthermore properly integrate it into society so that it advances. The strength of Japan’s strategy for AI lies in its understanding of the potential practical applications of the technology.

New legislation for Big Data and AI

Policymakers in Japan have a strong understanding of just how versatile AI is. Therefore, they have the necessary vision for its potential to be used within and completely disrupt just about any sector. Using it to improve society and daily life for people and lower the costs of the massive data tasks it can undertake invites in an almost endless potential for AI to completely change the world.

The Japanese AI strategy aims to improve society nationally across five priority areas:

  1. Manufacturing.
  2. Transportation and logistics.
  3. Health and medical care.
  4. Agriculture.
  5. Disaster Response.

However, Japan’s strategy also looks much further afield to global problems. They want to develop technology to tackle the major problems facing our global society, including a shortage of labour, looking after an ageing population and diversifying energy sources.

Many of Japan’s goals within the AI strategy line up with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), such as reducing greenhouse gases and managing waste more efficiently. Japan also says that when solutions are developed for these problems, the country would make them available to the entire world. If this comes off, it could give Japan the AI edge over competitors such as China and the US.

COVID-19 has sped up the need for AI development

Of course, since this strategy was released, COVID-19 has disrupted just about everything in Japan and around the world. However, the AI goals still stand and are arguably more urgent than ever.

Japan struggles with similar challenges to other major economies, including the lack of appropriately skilled professionals able to handle AI-related tech. To combat this, Japan is planning major reforms of the educational system that will include AI in the curriculum. They plan to make AI tech a compulsory part of the entrance exam for university and encourage lifelong learning and retraining.

The Japanese Government are introducing lots of legislation surrounding data and its circulation. AI and AI related technology demands Big Data and that means it’s vital to ensure it remains protected and of high quality. For example, legislation has been introduced, including The Act on the Protection of Personal Information and The Basic Act on the Advancement of Utilising Public and Private Sector Data. Another focus area for the Japanese AI strategy is R&D. The Government plans to establish a network of R&D centres of excellence.

AI is already permeating Japanese society

Examples of AI already being incorporated into Japanese society include:

  • AI smart speakers are increasingly being used to help people with disabilities or older people who need assistance. Their voice activation functionality is working well for those who want to connect with others and those with mobility issues. Examples of smart speakers include Alexa from Amazon. In 2019 a non-profit in Japan took it one step further and distributed smart speakers with extra video functionality to 20 older people to help them socialise. The organisation is called the Kirari Yoshijima Network and is based in Kawanishi, Yamagata Prefecture. Future plans include virtual assistants to help people living alone stave off dementia by giving them more interaction with others.
  • Avatar robots began filling the void left by a Japan dealing with social distancing. Robot and tech solutions company Seikatsu Kakumei rolled out a digital teleportation robot to help businesses deal with face to face activities during the pandemic. Some restaurants have also used waiter robots to help create contactless service to patrons.
  • AI quality control robots is taking on shifts at the autoparts plant of Musashi Seimitsu Industry during the pandemic as manufacturing turns to AI to manage the factory floor in a completely different way. Social distancing has taken its toll on production lines, which has sped up the use of AI tech and robotics.