Fujitsu’s future: Magic cars and whales in the forest

[:en]A Japanese technology expert has shared his vision of the future with me. He claims that magic is on the way.

Yoshikuni Takashige of Fujitsu told me that “significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He then went on to reveal three ideas which the company is developing which resemble magic and which are likely to become reality in the near future.

Mr Takashige is Fujitsu’s Vice President for Marketing Strategy and Vision. He said that within a few years, driverless cars will be able to collect old people from their homes in isolated parts of Japan and take them to the doctor’s.

Many old people in Japan would appreciate help in travelling to a clinic for medical treatment and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that autonomous vehicles, or driverless cars, are about to arrive on the roads in Japan soon, supported by Fujitsu’s technology.

Yet it seems a shame to replace human drivers entirely with machines. Japanese taxis are clean, safe and friendly and surely, in a robotic car, a passenger would miss the friendly company of a driver, who might be able to offer them a helping hand?

Translating machine

Fujitsu is also working on an automatic voice-translating machine. An engineer from Tokyo showed me the prototype. First, he spoke to the machine in Japanese. The computer listened carefully to his words, wrote them onto a screen and then tried to translate them. The English made sense but sounded strange.

When I spoke to the computer in English and it translated my words into Japanese. I was impressed. However, when I spoke to it in Japanese, the computer became confused. It could not understand my foreign accent and my grammatical mistakes. However, the helpful engineer who was showed me the machine could understand what I meant, which just goes to show how clever the human mind is and how patient the Japanese are when listening to foreigners! However, I expect the machine’s translation technology will soon advance and it will become a useful in overcoming language barriers.

Whales in the forest

The third idea on show at the Fujitsu World Tour was intriguing. It is a tool which records sounds around you and then allows you listen to them in other contexts. Mr Takashige showed me a charming video, which tries to express this concept visually. I liked it but I didn’t fully understand it. Why are whales singing in a forest? Are the voices on the seashore coming from the ghosts of people who have drowned? The tool is called Intelligent Sound and it appears to challenge our normal thoughts about sound and the emotions it creates.

Anyway, it was fun to meet the people from Fujitsu in London as part of their world tour. I look forward to finding out if any of the concepts transform into everyday magic.

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