The Most Futuristic Japanese Tech: Today or Tomorrow?

Modern-day society is called ‘society 5.0’, information is added to the stages of human development. With VR, IoT, AI, etc., technology has never looked so futuristic. Japan has always surprised people with its new tech, no one can disagree. Japan’s population is declining, but not its capacity to innovate. Not to be outdone, the government strongly supports the R&D and enacts reforms in favor of innovation (with The National Strategic Special Zones, which facilitate foreign companies to invest in Japan, for example). So what has Japan accomplished, what does this new society look like and will look like in a few years?

Today’s Tech

Earprint (ERGO)

This new technology was presented in the CEATEC exhibition in Japan. The earprint system is a more secured means to unlock your devices. It uses the ‘unique geometry of the ear’: a sound is produced and echoed back, and the way it is echoed is recognized by sensors. Ears have a unique shape, like fingerprints. However, fingerprints can be easily reproduced, change because of a scratch or be impossible to use when wearing gloves. 


Robots are not new, but they are becoming smarter and smarter. Companions against loneliness, humanoids / mechanical dolls (like Erica), therapeutic robots (like PARO the baby seal), smart toys, educational robots (for coding, etc.), cooks, receptionists, babysitters… The list is endless.
In Japan, where solitude is a problem for many, robots are created to warm up our hearts, like Lovot (love x robot). Cute, warm to touch, it has a lot of features like recognizing its owner(s), asking for a hug and many others. 

LOVOT. Photo: PR Times.


Dog Translator

In Japan, dogs are everywhere and people love them. But did they understand their dogs well? This is why Inupathy was created. Thanks to HRV (heart rate variability), the device can analyze their moods (stressed, happy, angry, alert, etc.) and translate them into colors.

Smart House

You can turn lights and music on and off, close or open the blinds on your phone or ask a smart device to do it for you. But now, you can also ask the weather to a wooden panel, in reality a touch-sensitive screen called mui Calm Technology & Design. You can also talk with your family, check news or connect it with Alexa or Google Assistant. The mui team also plans to update new releases in the future.

A Silent Speaker

Yes. A silent speaker. Called the Pixie Dust Technologies Holographic Whisper, the sound can only be heard if you stand in the right position thanks to high amplitude ultrasonic waves. 

Tomorrow’s Tech

Biodegradable Electronic Devices

Scientists at the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research (ISIR) of Osaka University invented nanopaper sheets which can decompose in soil (in around 2 months). Usual electric materials have to be recovered and have an impact on the environment, not those. The nanopaper sensors will also enable data collection in difficult-to-reach areas (at the mouth of a volcano for example).
Check out the Asahi Shimbun article here for more detail.

Futuristic Supermarkets

Panasonic created uSockets, with real-time price tags and the possibility to check on our smartphones information concerning the products. On top of that, if some products expire soon, the price automatically lowers. The project was presented at CEATEC 2017, but is still under development.

Generate Electricity With Infrared Light

 When we know that about half of the solar energy is composed of infrared light (46%), creating electricity (and hydrogen, a fuel source) with it seems to be a wonderful opportunity. It represents a huge amount of energy. The material is made of copper sulfide nanometer particles and is transparent, so power could be generated through windows. The Japanese team started its project in 2016 and hope to improve the product for use by 2023.
Check out the Asahi Shimbun article here for more detail.

An Ultra-Thin Sensor for Health

Pasted on an arm, this sensor can read pulses and vein patterns. The scientists also try to improve the product to measure blood sugar levels and blood oxygen content. In addition to that, they think about adding a battery to create a health care wristwatch.
Check out the Asahi Shimbun article here for more detail.


The government, however, faces some difficulties. First, there is a shortage of trained IT engineers. The demand for foreigner engineers is growing (more than 28,000 currently, representing 3%). In 2030, there will be a demand for more than 789,000 software engineers according to the ministry, especially in the database and AI development fields. The aging society does not help, and even if there is more supply of graduates, the demand for very skilled workers is growing fast.
Second, the R&D startups are smaller and fewer than in other developed countries. Many companies have a huge R&D budget, but not as high as in China or in the United States.
According to the CSTI, Japan also has a ‘rigid socioeconomic structure and the significant lack of globalization.’

Since the 2000s, Japan has been falling behind in matters of innovation because of companies like Apple or Samsung. To innovate, a company must know and understand its customers, but Japan is culturally very different from America, Europe or China. Also, failure is feared in Japan, while in the United States many people take risks when they invest. The number of angel investors is, thereby, higher. It is also common to change companies in the West, unlike in Japan, which limits innovation. Plus, Japanese people prefer working for a large firm, not for a small startup.

Even though Japan is progressing and offers many innovative products (it is still a leader in technological innovation), it is behind for “the political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication” which enables innovation, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization.

But the government supports more and more innovation, wants to improve transportation, communication infrastructure into space, deep learning, to democratize IoT communication or make sustainable digital farms. A new fuel with microalgae has even been imagined for jet aircraft. Even if Japan starts falling behind, innovative tech remains at the center of this society. What does the future will look like with all those innovations?

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