Japan, land of rising sun, once was a beacon of all technological advancement but recently that image has been eroded. When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI), it is quite evident that the United States and China are leading the way. There is data that there are more than 1,000 AI-related companies in the United States, including major companies such as “Google”, “IBM”, “Microsoft”, “Facebook”, and “Amazon”. On the other hand, China has mega-companies that are researching and utilizing AI: “Tencent”, “Alibaba”, “Baidu”, etc. China is a major leader in the number of AI-related research papers published. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 41,000 AI-related research papers published by China, 25,500 in the United States, 11,700 in Japan, 10,100 in the United Kingdom, and 8,000 in Germany. Interestingly, Japan is ranked third(source). Is the Sun rising again? We will introduce the top 5 AI companies in Japan.
#1 Preferred Networks (Funding: $129.9M)
Established in 2014, Tokyo Startup Preferred Networks raised $130 million from Toyota, Hitachi and Fanuc to extend machine learning to Internet of Things (IoT) purposes. Their new investment round set a $2 billion price tag for the four-year-old startup, making it Japan’s first unicorn by experts at CB Insights. The startup’s only product as of now is automated manga coloring tool and some opensource developer materials for neural networking frameworks. The company’s main operations concentrate on autonomous cars, robot and machine tools machine intelligence and medical diagnostics.
#2 Abeja (Funding: $45.4M)
Established in 2012, Tokyo startup Abeja raised $45.4 million from a list of investors including Google and Nvidia to create big data analytics focused on IoT sensor data. The startup has developed an analytics platform that can be incorporated into almost any enterprise with enough data to generate meaningful insights. Abeja also delivers specialized goods tailored for use in retail, production and infrastructure on the basis of its central platform.
The retail solution analyzes consumer activity in-store in order to improve business and inventory control. The manufacturing module increases production performance by automating product inspection and forecasting machine malfunction. The infrastructure offering avoids breakdowns by predicting potential malfunctions and coordinating maintenance. Abeja is also looking to extend its analytics business to international markets such as China and Thailand.
#3 Cinnamon (Funding: $39M)
Established in 2012, Tokyo’s startup Cinnamon took a total of $17 million, with the new round of $6 million closing only last year. Cinnamon provides an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) smart scanner algorithm that can interpret and understand text and handwriting. In a matter of seconds, the Flax Scanner can handle almost every form of paper with 99.2 per cent precision, spare administrative and support personnel for more value-added tasks. The organization has branches in Japan and Vietnam, and will use its new investment round to extend to the U.S.
#4 Ubie (Funding: $22M)
Founded in 2017, Ubie provides Hospital product, also known as AI Monshin (Monshin means a doctor/record interview in Japanese) is an AI-driven medical questionnaire program developed for users in medical institutions to facilitate the development of clinical records under the oversight of specialists. The SaaS solution released in 2017 integrates several workflow improvements with Clinical Decision Support (CDS). Patients will answer questions created by AI Monshin while summarizing the answers in the waiting room and translating them into EHR compliant text. Physicians would then check the data in the examination room before they see the patient. The doctor would then use the details gathered by AI Monshin to examine and diagnose the patient. According to the latest figures from the startup in January 2020, more than 200 medical institutions in Japan are using AI Monshin.
#5 Ascent Robotics (Funding: $17.9M)
Established in 2016, Tokyo-based company Ascent Robotics raised $17.9 million to build autonomous vehicle and industrial robot software. Ascent’s methodology is based on their AI learning architecture called Atlas. The company says it is the “skeleton” on which AI training simulations operate and is packed with models that create real-life conditions, circumstances and input in a simulated world, essentially teaching AI algorithms how to act. With the combination of real and virtual data, the AI’s learning productivity is stated to be 50 times higher than when only real-life data is used. Ascent aims to build a fully autonomous (level 4) vehicle software by the end of 2020, after which the firm is preparing an IPO. The startup is headed by Ken Kutaragi, former CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment and developer of the PlayStation.
*Ranking is based on crunchbase and ai-startups.org
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