BreakThrough Study Idea

SMEs determine social acceptability using low-cost Proof Of Concept (POC) and attempt a breakthroughMasatoshi Ishikawa

<Series 4 / complete>


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Previously, in Part 3, Mr. Ishikawa spoke about the application of high-speed tracking in the field of medical care. The technology has many possibilities ranging from cystoscopy to robotic surgery. In Part 4, which is the last part, Mr. Ishikawa speaks about “How SMEs should be involved in the development of cutting-edge technology”.

Development of Robots that Surpass Human Capabilities

With high-speed vision, I first increased the sensor speed to match the sensory system of humans. However, this was not sufficient to speed up the entire system, and I increased the speed of other parts including the computer that is equivalent to the brain and actuator that is equivalent to the muscles. As a result, real-time feedback became possible. I would like to specially mention that this does not involve any “Prediction”.
Let me explain using the “Janken (Rock-Paper-Scissors) Robot” that has recently received high acclaim. Humans take 60/1000 seconds to change from rock to paper gesture. The Janken robot recognizes human gestures up to 1/1000 seconds, and in 20/1000 seconds, it turns to scissors from the rock gesture. Robots will always win the game as they can make decisions and movements faster than humans. That is, with a high-speed system, you can respond with simple cognitive capabilities without having to incorporate complex decisions like prediction into the system.
The goals for such robots are not human capabilities. Similar to creating high-speed vision of 1000 fps that surpasses the human ability of 30 fps, we need to go beyond human capabilities and target the limits of machines. Even when high-speed tracking is used for surgical robots, the skills of the best surgeons can be adequately demonstrated by robots as robotic technology surpasses human capabilities.

Janken robot with a 100% win rate

Like GAFA, will the new values be created also in Japan? What should we do to create new values?

What Comes Next is the Creation of Ideas

For developing such cutting-edge technology, while it is disappointing to say this, I feel that “Japan is behind America and China”. However, in the coming years, the most important task would be to create new value through synthesis as mentioned in Part 1. Japan cannot afford to lag forever.
Since Japan has the technology to manufacture sensors and actuators with the highest precision in the world, the next step is to come up with ideas. I believe that the participation of SMEs is indispensable for Japan to come up with ideas and get breakthroughs. Since SMEs have their proprietary technologies, I want to look at incorporating these ideas differently by using these technologies for other uses and merging them with other industries. If we continue with the precedent of giving importance to needs and marketing forever, we will not be able to create the technology of the 21st-century.

We should be aware of the current situation that “Japan is lagging”. How should SMEs be involved in the development of cutting-edge technology?

Determination of Social Acceptability with POC

When SMEs begin prototyping based on an idea with the starting point “Good to have” and become obsessed with the completed form, it leads to problems both in terms of time and money. Hence, I would like SMEs to adopt the method of POC. It is the state before completion with prototypes to realize ideas at low cost.
The Janken robot that I made in my laboratory is one such POC, I have loaded the video to YouTube to observe how society responds to it. It includes the number of hits and “Likes”, direct offers will come from companies who are interested in the technology, and you will also receive comments and inquiries. Such responses are used to determine reaction from people. If you conclude that the social response is good, you can invest more money and pursue the idea further, but if you feel that the social response has been low and that it has not been received well, you can stop that research, and work on other ideas. I think SMEs are good at manufacturing prototype models during the POC stage. Of course, for important inventions, you should take sufficient care and apply for patents.

In this way, if you identify an idea that has received a good response, you should focus on getting research resources, such as human resources and funds, and work on research and development.
I would like to see more VCs investing in ideas that have a good social response based on POC. Even if nine out of ten challenges do not succeed, finding one new value will get ten times the return on investment. The losses from the nine failures will be absorbed by the high results you obtain.
To conclude, I started a project in my laboratory in the form of a consortium called “WINDS Network” in 2016. Today, over 180 organizations are conducting free and open activities, to commercialize new technological applications. Interested companies are welcome to join us. Let’s aim for breakthroughs together.

In Conclusion of the Series

Importance is still given to needs and marketing in Japan, and not many ideas based on “Good to have” are being created. However, since Japan has analysis and advanced technology to create sensors and actuators of the 20th century, I would like to present many ideas for creating new value in the near future.
For this, we should quickly establish a society that evaluates “Justifiable failures” without bias. Behind every success, such as Google, there are many failures. After many failures, success is finally achieved with one idea. I want to continue working on stress-free challenges without the fear of failure. Let us all work on these challenges together.

<Video> Janken robot with 100% win rate

Interview Date: March 11, 2019



Transition to a society that correctly evaluates new values created by the transformation of mindset from analysis to synthesis

Speed up the entire system using high-speed vision. Application to the human interface is possible

High-speed tracking assists procedures such as working using microscopes or robotic surgeries

SMEs determine social acceptability using low-cost Proof Of Concept (POC) and attempt a breakthrough

Masatoshi Ishikawa
Dean, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo

1977 Graduated from Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo 1979 Completed diploma and master’s course from the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo, and became Dr. of Engineering in 1988 (University of Tokyo). He was a senior researcher at the Agency of Industrial Science and Technology, Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) in 1979, and he worked as an assistant professor at the Department of Mathematical Engineering and Information Physics, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo since 1989. Next, he served as a director and associate dean of the University of Tokyo and has been in his current post since 2016.
His field of specialization is systems informatics (sensor engineering, robotics, image processing, perception and behavior systems, bio-information processing). He is engaged in the research on sensor fusion, massively parallel high-speed vision, high-speed robots, visual feedback, meta-perception, optics in computing, intelligent tactile sensors, and circuit models of bioinformation.
In addition to numerous awards at domestic and international conferences, he was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon, in November 2011.

◇Major Publications as Co-author
“Robot Control Handbook” (Kindai Kagaku Sha Co., Ltd,) Published in December 2017
“Introduction to Information Network Science” (Corona Publishing Co., Ltd) Published in October 2015, and various other books

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