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Science

Japan making push for AI-led medicine, manufacturing

AI development startup Preferred Networks' technology, left, and ZMP's self-driving system.

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor and NEC will join a public-private initiative to develop a core artificial intelligence technology that can find application in such fields as medicine, manufacturing and infrastructure management.

The government-backed Riken research institute's Center for Advanced Integrated Intelligence Research will open a research base Sept. 1 in Tokyo. More than 20 companies and institutions, including Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Nippon Telegraph & Telephone and AI development startup Preferred Networks, are expected to send researchers there.

Practically minded

The goal is to develop a basic problem-solving AI technology that does not require massive amounts of data to work on. The program will find optimal solutions for specific situations that humans would not see from even a limited data set. Using this program, participating companies and labs will develop AI systems for their own real-world applications such as monitoring Japan's aging infrastructure.

Toyota and NEC will work with Riken, focusing on AI systems for manufacturing and infrastructure management. They envision AI systems that can detect signs of impending production machinery failures from sensor data that even highly experienced factory workers may miss. Such systems will be able to boost factory productivity by helping to eliminate inefficiencies on production lines.

Sony Computer Science Laboratories is looking to develop a medical AI system to recommend treatments that most doctors might not think of. The system is expected to do so by analyzing each patient's digital medical records in detail. By proposing treatments tailored to individual patients, the system should also be able to help hold down rising medical costs.

The cooperation is expected to run a decade. The science ministry, which oversees Riken, will likely seek around 10 billion yen ($99.7 million) for the project in the fiscal 2017 budget. Business participants are expected to contribute hundreds of millions of yen.

Small step toward big future

The project will also draw the cooperation of 15 or so universities, including the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, with the tally expected to climb further. Research results will likely find commercial application as quickly as in two to three years.

The Japanese government lists AI as a pillar of its economic growth strategy, hoping to use the technology to overcome such challenges as a declining population and growing shortages of engineers and other skilled workers.

(Nikkei)

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