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What is Japan doing when China is trying to build platforms such as Tencent and Alibaba?(1)

Source:Iris Liang Time:2018-5-14 8:58:45

On the surface, in this round of IT revolution in Japan, it seems that there is no special social and e-commerce platform for cattle. Its mobile payment may not be as convenient as China, and there is almost no sharing bicycles on the streets of Tokyo. Seko Machinery keeps learning the latest technology in related fields, providing high efficiency titanium alloy welded pipe production line.

The relative lack of data in social networking and e-commerce is a common problem faced by many countries outside China. The rapid rise of Tencent, Alibaba, and Jingdong has a huge impact on the Chinese market because companies are willing to take risks to develop technology. There are not many companies in the world that can compete with Tencent and Alibaba for data accumulation. Japanese companies have also almost given up their competition in this area.

However, invisible places, Japanese companies are trying to make artificial intelligence (AI) closely linked with production.

In addition, in terms of the Internet of Things (IoT), Japan also has its own characteristics, and its related technologies have achieved initial success.

Japan’s experience in the development of artificial intelligence and Internet of things can provide many lessons for the development of China’s related fields in the future.

Robots that penetrated into various industries in Japan

In Japan today, it is not surprising that most of the welding and painting operations of automotive plants are replaced by robots (hands). Mechanical manufacturing was originally a specialty of many Japanese companies, and now these expertise are used on robots.

At present, more Japanese robots are used in the service sector. For example, at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Hitachi’s robot EMIEW can be seen as providing consulting services for travelers around the world.

The robots there have been able to use the languages of most countries and provide questions and answers on accommodation, travel, shopping, etc. They can guide guests to nearby shops, stations, etc.

If there are many guests, questions may be asked in different languages at the same time. When an EMIEW is in a state of inertia, the EMIEWs in other places will hurry to answer questions in a timely manner. What is amazing is that they can remember who questioned a robot and what language it used. Because these robots work on the same platform and face multiple people at the same time, they can easily deal with it.
If there are no robots to provide services at the airport, I am afraid that travelers can only find uniformed airport service personnel. Most of them don't have a national flag on their chests. They see it as a five-star red flag. They can ask questions in Chinese. Haneda International Airport has a large number of travelers from all over the world. If it is true that there is one staff member for each language, it is estimated that the lobby will be quite crowded.

This consulting service type robot is widely used in Japan. Before Kushu went to attend an exhibition, he saw a lot of people talking around a “beauty” and asked various questions. This is very rare in Japan.

I looked around and found that the "beauty" was neither haughty nor humble. She always remembered the direction of the questioner who asked questions to "her", and then, after an orderly answer to a question, he turned to answer another question.

It turned out that the "beauty" was a robot. There was a brand under her body and she wrote the name "her". The appropriate language, decent clothing, and well-proportioned figure made people reluctant to leave for a long time.

For another example, household robots have been widely used in Japanese family life.

Panasonic is developing a laundry robot, which greatly facilitates people's lives and can be regarded as "lazy welfare."

After the dirty clothes were given to the laundry robots, nothing was left unattended. Washing, ironing, sorting, and collection were completed by robots, and the integration was fully realized.

As the population of Japan continues to shrink and the population ages, the household robots, including laundry robots, will have greater room for development in Japan in the future.

Lazy welfare: Robots that do housework. Lazy welfare: Robots that do housework.
In addition to inquiring about robots and domestic robots, many robots produced by Japanese companies are produced for a special occasion and have functions such as image processing, prediction in advance, and deep learning, such as search and rescue robots.

At the large-scale group exhibition held by Hitachi Ltd., a "grass-snake" robot attracted my attention: The robot's body is roughly as thick as an adult's arm and its length is only one meter long. It is said to be "grass-snakes" because the head and body are almost as thick and the "mouth" is also flat.

The Q&A explained that this very low-value robot is of great use - in the Fukushima nuclear power plant where a huge nuclear accident occurred.

The nuclear power plant set up by the Tokyo Electric Power Company in Fukushima, in March 2011 due to earthquake tsunami and human error, happened the largest nuclear accident in human history on the same scale as the Soviet Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Nuclear furnace bottom has been burned through. The situation is also quite complicated. There is water, various damaged machines, and already collapsed walls.... People cannot imagine what would happen to a nuclear reactor. People must not be close to observation. They can only dispatch robots.

The robots of several previous manufacturers had also “bravely” drilled down to the furnace for reconnaissance, but the nuclear radiation was too severe and the related electronic components quickly failed. The number of robots that could really enter the nearby provenance after an accident at a nuclear reactor was few. Hitachi developed this radiation-resistant "grass snake" robot, Hitachi's robots drilled in, and sent back a large number of pictures to let Japanese nuclear power experts understand the nuclear accident.

The picture shows the reactor captured by the robot at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The picture shows the Fukushima nuclear power plant reactor taken by the robot.
The robot is very attractive and has a promising future. Whether it is the "grass snake" or the "beauty" above, the robot embodies the level of Japanese machinery manufacturing and AI technology.

The key to robot movement

Why can the Japanese robotic industry develop so well? The flexibility of robots relies mainly on two pillars—motors and artificial intelligence—and both of Japan are doing well. Let's look at Japan's motor manufacturing.

Walking and sports are the biggest features of robots. For example, ASHIMO, a robot produced by Honda Motor Co., walks on two legs. The Murata urchin of Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. can ride on a 5 cm-wide track, and it can even go anywhere on the flat ground.

Let the robot move, in addition to providing the necessary energy such as electricity, the most important thing is that the drive, that is, the motor.

Hitachi, who was just mentioned as a "grass snake" robot, has just started production of electric motors. In 1910, Hitachi's founder produced a motor with 5 horsepower. It was precisely because of the successful production of this motor that he had confidence in running a business.
At Hitachi's various exhibitions, this now-looking heavy-duty motor will surely be brought out. The person who came to see the exhibition is a motor company. Of course, today's Hitachi produces a wide variety of electric motors, including not only medium and large motors that can be used as power station engines, but also small, miniature products. With a wealth of motor products, the production of robots, the drive has a guarantee.

In addition to Hitachi, many Japanese robot manufacturers have strong motor R&D and manufacturing capabilities.

For example, Yaskawa Electric was originally a professional manufacturer of electric motors. As early as 1977, Yaskawa Electric Co., Ltd. developed the first all-electric industrial robot in Japan, “Motoman” 1. But the robots that are described here translate into “robots” that are easier to understand.

Yaskawa's robots are mainly used in assembly lines in the automotive and other industries, and can be used for welding, assembly, painting, and other automation work. Then the transfer robots developed by the company are also widely used in Japanese factories. Not so much Yaskawa Electric has a strong technology in the production of robots, it is better to say that the company developed a variety of motors, is well used in the related mechanical field.

At present, the status of Japanese robotics companies is that Hitachi, Yaskawa Electric, Fanuc, etc. form a matrix that can provide almost all automation (robot) equipment in industrial production.

What these companies have in common is that they all have motor production capabilities that exceed those of other countries. Without a strong motor manufacturing capability, it would be more difficult to take the lead in robotics.


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Iris Liang
SEKO Machinery & Technology Co., Ltd
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