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Meet the robots Toyota is bringing to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

Meet the robots Toyota is bringing to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

July 22, 2019

Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are fast approaching, and Toyota is playing a key role in on-site mobility and transportation. The Japanese automaker has unveiled five robots it’s going to be bringing to the games, which will each help in some way to support athletes and attendees at venues get around, get information, experience the games remotely and ferry food, drinks and equipment and much more. The robots range from humanoid to strictly purpose-built and functional in design.

First up are two robot designs based on Tokyo’s official Olympic mascots, Miraitowa and Someity. These blue and pink big-eyed bots will be on-site at official venues acting as greeters and for photo-ops, but they’re equipped with cameras and digital eyes that can offer expressions in response to human interaction. They’ll also be able to move their arms and legs, and part of the plan for deploying them is to potentially distribute them across Japan to offer kids in other cities a chance to get a taste of the games from afar.T-HR3 offers a similar set of features, albeit in a very different design. This humanoid robot is a lot less “cute” than the mascot bots, but has a lot more potential in terms of articulation. It’s also intended to provide a remote experience of what it’s like to be at the games, and can reproduce the movements of its mascot robot counterparts in real time. T-HR3 also can stream images and sounds from the remote locations back to the Olympic site, acting as telepresence bots for Olympic fans off-site and mirroring their movements — they can “converse with and high-five athletes and others,” Toyota says specifically.T TR1 Remote location communication RobotNext up is T-TR1, a more traditional kind of telepresence robot that has a wheeled base, cameras and a super-large vertical display. …

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White Star Capital eyes Asia growth with new Hong Kong office

White Star Capital eyes Asia growth with new Hong Kong office

July 22, 2019

For western startups looking to enter Asia and Asian startups expanding globally, more funding has become available as investors are increasingly looking to export local tech solutions to overseas markets.

Globally based venture capital firm White Star Capital has set up a new office in Hong Kong this month to capture entrepreneurs in the budding region as well as help its portfolio companies go to Asia. Founded by Eric Martineau-Fortin, who spent years conducting mergers and acquisitions at Merrill Lynch, and Jean-Francois Marcoux, who sold his gaming startup Ludia to FermantleMedia, White Star has over the last decade backed a spectrum of early-stage companies across several continents.

Currently investing with eight partners spread across seven cities, White Star’s portfolio spans from New York-based healthy meal startup Freshly, rewards app Drop out of Toronto, on-demand photo platform Meero from Paris and dog food startup Butternut Box in London.

Beginning in 2017, Martineau-Fortin and his partners began looking eastward. They decided to initially exclude China as the market was already crowded with no shortage of funding available, leading to much larger investment round sizes compared to the U.S. and Europe as well as notoriously high valuations.

The investor also believed “cultural differences in both consumer and enterprise behavior” require different regional strategies. Whilst certain Asian companies specializing in artificial intelligence, fintech, enterprise software and micro-mobility share some commonalities with Western counterparts, others such as e-commerce businesses remain, still, quite distinct in Asia.

“Having said this, there is also a number of fabulously interesting ecosystems and countries outside of Hong Kong and China that are sometimes forgotten by North American and European-based investors, such as Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taipei. Those are also very advanced regions with great schools, great engineers having certainly easy access to capital but not always the ability …

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Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

July 22, 2019

From Toronto to Tokyo, the challenges faced by cities today are often remarkably similar: climate change, rising housing costs, traffic, economic polarization, unemployment. To tackle these problems, new technology companies and industries have been sprouting and scaling up with innovative digital solutions like ride sharing and home sharing. Without a doubt, the city of the future must be digital. It must be smart. It must work for everyone.

This is a trend civic leaders everywhere need to embrace wholeheartedly. But building a truly operational smart city is going to take a village, and then some. It won’t happen overnight, but progress is already under way.

As tech broadens its urban footprint, there will be more and more potential for conflict between innovation and citizen priorities like privacy and inclusive growth. Last month, we were reminded of that in Toronto, where planning authorities from three levels of government released a 1,500-page plan by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs meant to pave the way for a futuristic waterfront development. Months in the making, the plan met with considerably less than universal acclaim.

But whether it’s with Sidewalk or other tech partners, the imperative to resolve these conflicts becomes even stronger for cities like Toronto. If they’re playing this game to win, civic leaders need to minimize the damage and maximize the benefits for the people they represent. They need to develop co-ordinated innovation plans that prioritize transparency, public engagement, data privacy and collaboration.

Transparency

The Sidewalk Labs plan is full of tech-forward proposals for new transit, green buildings and affordable housing, optimized by sensors, algorithms and mountains of data. But even …

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This is one way Toyota plans to shuttle people around during the 2020 Olympics

This is one way Toyota plans to shuttle people around during the 2020 Olympics

July 18, 2019

When thousands of people converge on Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the city’s infrastructure will be tested. Toyota is getting into the mix to handle some of the ways people will get around the city and the Olympics venue.

Toyota unveiled Thursday a new product called APM, or Accessible People Mover, which is designed for the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

The aim, according to Toyota, is for this vehicle to provide “mobility for all” and to solve the so-called “last mile” problem. In Toyota’s view, that means a vehicle that can transport as many people as possible, including elderly, pregnant women, families with young children and people with disabilities.

Toyota will deploy 200 of these vehicles, which will operate in and around the event. There will be two models — basic and relief — in the fleet. The basic version is a low-speed short-distance battery electric vehicle that will be used to transport visitors and staff within the Olympic grounds. Each vehicle will hold six people, including the driver. When used for passengers in wheelchairs, the configuration can be modified by folding the seats to allow the wheelchair rider in the second row.

The “relief” model will be used for emergencies. The rows can be moved to provide space for a stretcher and two relief stretchers.

These APM vehicles are just a taste of what Toyota plans to deliver during the 2020 Olympics. The automaker has shown off eight other vehicles, as well as assistive robotics, all under the mobility for all moniker, including the e-Palette vehicle, which is basically a flexible blank slate on wheels with an electric motor and a fully modular interior design.

Other vehicles include the JPN Taxi, which was introduced in 2017 and can accommodate people using wheelchairs, and …

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