Fifth Business Advisory Board Discusses Future of Robotics

February 18, 2016 at 6pm - 9pm
IBM Client Experience Center

The fifth Business Advisory Board (BAB) was held at the IBM Client Experience Center on February 18, welcoming Michael D. Rhodin, Senior Vice President of Watson Business Development, as the featured speaker.

Mr. Yonamine opens BAB

The discussion was led by Paul Yonamine, Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors. Vice Chair of the USJC Board of Councilors Masaaki Tanaka, who leads BAB, welcomed the attendees. The audience included not only business executives but also the young alumni ofTOMODACHI Initiative programs, who were invited to BAB for the first time as the next generation of leaders in U.S.-Japan relations. USJC Executive Vice President & COO Suzanne Basalla invited the audience to this year’s Annual Conference in Silicon Valley, and encouraged them to take a moment to reflect upon the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Audience members were also invited to share their messages of encouragement with the people of Tohoku, by participating in a social media campaign run by the TOMODACHI Initiative.

Ms. Basalla with TOMODACHI alumni

Just hours before the event, IBM Watson launched its Japanese language feature, in partnership with SoftBank. Mr. Rhodin called this a key frontrunner of one of IBM’s most significant innovations, and described the journey of 27 scientists from countries around the world--including Japan--working tirelessly to create a computer that would be able to “answer any question about any topic.”

Mr. Rhodin addresses the audience

Mr. Rhodin used staggering statistics to illustrate his belief that we are entering “The Third Tech Revolution.” He cited the 99% data growth in health, utilities and manufacturing industries to point out that we live in an age where humans have more information than they can process. This, he said, shows the relevance of computer systems like Watson, which can “find the signal in the noise” and analyze this information to create useful knowledge.

Mr. Rhodin also expressed his optimism about Japanese technology companies as global leaders in the field of robotics. He discussed the potential use of robots like SoftBank’s Pepper, which could chaperon the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with its multilingual skills.

His talk evoked enthusiasm for the many possibilities of Watson and “cognitive business” in a wide-range of sectors, from medicine to finance. Takashi Yabuta, alumnus of theTOMODACHI Toshiba Science & Technology Leadership Academy, commented: “The event opened my eyes to a whole new possibility of what I want to study in the future. I was always interested in computers, and I vaguely thought about studying computer science at university. I had previously thought that artificial intelligence (AI) was only possible in works of science fiction. But after hearing Mr. Rhodin’s speech, I am thrilled to learn that AI is already happening in the real world, and that there is huge demand in various industries.”

We thank Mr. Yonamine for bringing in Mr. Rhodin as the featured speaker!

To see more photos from the event, click here.

TOMODACHI alumni share their message to Tohoku on social media