OpenAI, Google, Midjourney, Adobe, Microsoft - most of the big AI players are based in the US, especially on the West Coast. But Japan is also making waves.
Two recent developments have put Japan, and especially its capital Tokyo, in the spotlight. Microsoft Japan is launching a secure version of OpenAI's ChatGPT AI chatbot on behalf of the government. At the same time, two former Google AI experts have set up a startup in Tokyo.
Microsoft builds secure ChatGPT for the Japanese government
OpenAI's browser-based ChatGPT has been resisted by many institutions, especially governments, due to potential privacy concerns. However, Microsoft assures Japan that all information will be processed in data centers in Japan and will not be sent overseas. In addition, the government will get its own instance of the chatbot.
This would make ChatGPT suitable for use in government ministries, for example. The Japanese government recently announced plans to do just that. Japan is the third market after the U.S. and Europe where Microsoft is launching its local service.
The Japanese government has high hopes for AI as an engine for growth. Japan's Mainichi newspaper reports that Prime Minister Kishida wants to use AI to pull Japan out of decades of economic stagnation. ChatGPT could help civil servants with routine tasks and reduce their workload, officials hope.
AI pioneers found Sakana AI
Meanwhile, two former Google AI experts have founded a startup called Sakana AI in Tokyo, the Financial Times reports. Co-founder Llion Jones was involved in the development of the first Transformer architecture, which is the basis for almost all current generative AI systems. Together with David Ha, the former head of Google Research in Japan, he now wants to develop his own generative AI.
The goals are ambitious: Jones and Ha want to develop their own generative AI model that can produce text, images, code, and other multimedia content. The limitations of competing AI models, they say, are that they are designed as brittle, unchanging structures like bridges or buildings. In contrast, natural systems with collective intelligence are very sensitive and responsive to changes in their environment. They want to use this as a guide for development.
Recently, the EU and Japan announced joint plans to combine their AI research. AI is already in limited use in Japanese schools. In April, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture also used ChatGPT to update text on its website.