The State of AI in Japan

Melissa 2017/05/08 IT・デジタルメディア

Robot holding out hand

Global Opportunity for AI

Automation has had a global impact in the way businesses operate. Increasingly, AI is becoming adopted to simplify business practices and in cases like in Japan, decrease the impact of the shrinking, aging population. Because of these issues that Japan currently faces, Japan has the largest potential for AI in Asia.

Japan has an overall automation potential of 55% of hours worked, compared with 46% in the United States.

Other economies with high potential include China, India and the USA. In these economies lies over half of the number of employees performing activities that could be automated. By adopting automated technology, economies can profit from productivity growth which can contribute to continued prosperity in aging nations and can provide a boost for fast-growing ones.


Robotics in Japan

Robotics is the focus of AI in Japan. A notable Japanese robot is Softbank’s Pepper, the world’s first robot that can read emotions, with this and other innovations, Japan is paving the way for other nations in robotics.

Japan’s strength and focus in robotics paired with the aging population, provide a prime testing ground for AI. A report by Nomura Research Institute concludes that almost half of all jobs in Japan could be performed by robots by 2035.

While Japan has a strength in robotics, it is lacking in other areas such as IOT, big data and AI. The key concept of “deep learning” is a central technology in AI, and is something that Japan is behind in. Compared to the countries with multinationals strong in AI such as the US, Japan lacks the expertise and financial strength for big data, which is key for deep learning. Japan’s focus on robotics may be too narrow in the bigger picture of AI.


Japanese Companies Are Adopting AI

Companies are increasingly adopting automation in Japan. Recently, an insurance firm replaced more than 30 employees with an artificial intelligence system. Other examples include Toyota Research Institute, pledging over $35 million dollars over the next 4 years to incorporating AI into their research to identify new substances for batteries or catalysts in hydrogen powered cars. Additionally, Sony and Line are considering working together to create devices powered by AI. These companies are just a few examples of adopters of AI technology.

Automation provides a productivity boost to the Japanese workforce which would otherwise struggle to meet economic growth projection. Pursuing automation further poses an opportunity to mitigate the current issues of aging population and shrinking workforce in Japan. In addition to Japan’s current efforts in robotics, there needs to be more of a focus in other aspects of AI as well.