tech

Japan eyes 2020 Olympics to retake place on tech podium

17 Comments
By Anne Beade

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© 2019 AFP

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Note that I say "commercial electronics". The leader in "electronics" was the USA, and basically what Japan did was find commercial applications for mostly US technology. This was still a huge achievement, but not a purely Japanese one. The book "We Were Burning" is a fine history of how the various Japanese hit products came about.

To me, that's an unnecessarily restrictive way of looking at Japan's technology and its postwar manufacturing success. It's not all about consumer electronics, they achieved a leading position in many industries. That's still true in some cases today: vehicle manufacturing, cameras (and optics), and watches are extremely strong areas. Japan continues to dominate the camera market (and note that Sony is now a major player), and Japan is probably the largest manufacturer of watches worldwide - two of its companies at least (Seiko and Casio, and to some extent Citizen) are practically revered. Incidentally these are all areas that aren't much to do with exclusively (if at all) American technologies, and it's also the case that Japan has been extremely important in the history of the development of those fields.

They were also crucial in the music/audio market, introducing CD (again, not American, it was co-developed with Philips), the Walkman, digital recording technologies like DAT and MD; excellent turntables both for audiophiles and DJs; and DVD and Bluray, which are still widely used.

Obviously times are changing fast, the music market in particular has completely transformed several times since the appearance of the iPod less than 20 years ago, but I don't think Japan's out of the game yet. They still manufacture a lot of AV equipment, and still have an excellent reputation in that area.

I haven't mentioned game consoles yet, either...

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There are two people in the top photo, the front one who is listening and the other vanished behind him explaining with his right arm.

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I personally believe Japan was a genuine world leader in commercial electronics, but only due to a certain set of circumstances, including the Cold War, that will never be repeated.

Note that I say "commercial electronics". The leader in "electronics" was the USA, and basically what Japan did was find commercial applications for mostly US technology. This was still a huge achievement, but not a purely Japanese one. The book "We Were Burning" is a fine history of how the various Japanese hit products came about.

Use of Japanese standards, Docomo's imode instead of the ordinary Internet and various now extinct copyright-protected file formats instead of mp3, basically killed the industry here. It won't come back like it was.

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The man in the photo unfortunately seems to have very different sized arms.

There're two people in the photo.

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ShavedNuts: "Retake? When were you ever on it?"

Ah, come on. I think it's only fair to admit that for a quite some time Japanese tech was considered at the top. It's just that for an even longer time Japan Inc favors loyalty and sacrifice over individual creativity and ingenuity. Companies like Samsung, generally considered to produce cheaper but inferior products, now produce products on par or better in terms of quality, and still at lower prices. THat's why so many Japanese companies have had to merge with others, drop out of many tech markets (like television displays, cell phones, etc.), but still want to go back and try and regain other markets instead of Moving on and creating or excelling in new ones. It's like coal in other countries, and the Bubble era economics here; they want to return to some kind of "Glory days" instead of Moving on.

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Retake? When were you ever on it?

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They won't and can't. There's not enough innnovation and innovation is still being discouraged through various means, and they can't keep prices down.

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People still buy CDs here. Enough said.

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But the 21st century has seen Silicon Valley giants and rivals from China and South Korea catch up and overtake some of the great names in Japanese tech.

Come one don 't say non sense. I am old enough to know that Japan never, simply never was ahead of the Silicon Valley companies. Japanese Tech was always gimmicky and not really world changing since they never or rarely came up first with real ideas that really were disturbing and have a real contribution.

And they continue to do that, since the things listed on this article are just gimmicks. Gimmicks based on technologies that did not anyway originated first in Japan. I don't believe that Japan has either been good at robotics either since they have produced so far mostly gimmicks that have little real use. Same for AI, Japan is actually late, having completely missed the rapid development in deep learning. Most Japanese companies are trying to catch up but not really with innovation. Rather they are using the available tech for applications that are again gimmicky and often childish. I just don't want a stupid sounding robot to talk to me.

And come on, Panasonic, really? Give me a break....

They're talking about the Olympics. Or are you suggesting they should power the entire Games by wind, hydrogen, wave, geo-thermal or solar technologies, completely off-grid?

Well Apple which yearly global operation is certainly at a scale higher than a single olympics event is now running 100% under green energy, 100%. This includes retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities across 43 countries. Remained to be done is getting all its suppliers on the same agenda, but it's getting there.

So yes really useful innovation is possible and it's not coming from Japan when it really matters.

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all of this over-zealous reaching to implement technology for a two week event that nobody will remember the next day.... I see a nightmare on the horizon....

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> ifd66Today  08:06 am JST

Driverless cars, robot volunteers and ultra high-definition TV

Ultimately, all things that are completely unnecessary gimmicks.

How about becoming a leader in technologies that are really going to matter? For example, wind, hydrogen, wave, geo-thermal or solar technologies?

They're talking about the Olympics. Or are you suggesting they should power the entire Games by wind, hydrogen, wave, geo-thermal or solar technologies, completely off-grid?

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As long as the industry only requirement to be a success here is to print the Made in Japan words, I do not think they will ever be competitive in a globalized economy. There was a time when companies were really innovative and cheap enough to be attractive, now the big name brands can sell any piece of tech from the last decade labeled as innovative and a good portion of the domestic market won't even question it.

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Visitors to Japan are often amazed to see how low-grade a lot of tech can be. Archaic devices like flip-phones and fax machines are still in common use.

You forgot squat toilets...

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Japan still has some gems.

AI and robotics, yes. Mass surveillance technology, yes. The rest, not so much.

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Driverless cars, robot volunteers and ultra high-definition TV

Ultimately, all things that are completely unnecessary gimmicks.

How about becoming a leader in technologies that are really going to matter? For example, wind, hydrogen, wave, geo-thermal or solar technologies?

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Japan still has some gems.

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The man in the photo unfortunately seems to have very different sized arms.

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