Expanding Humanity’s Limits (part 2 or 2)

The second part of my speech at SXSW in Austin was about the CiP Digital Special Zone.
It is equally important to consider “where” superhuman sports will be played. We have already come up with ideas for many new sports. I want to provide the world with a place to play these sports, a lab to develop these sports, and a stadium to watch these sports.
For example, we could make an IoT stadium where the walls are lined with sensors, allowing for 360 degree fullscreen viewing. We are still brainstorming this step.
However, we are making progress with community development to attract people to our vision. Alongside our Superhuman Sports activities, we are also in the process of planning the creation of a special zone for the concentration of digital content in Takeshiba, the Tokyo Bay Area. It will function as a base to lead the post-2020 digital industry.
Our plan is to redevelop this Tokyo metropolitan 1.5ha area, conveniently located near the Olympic Stadium, and open it right before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We will gather state-of-the-art content, media, IT, and IoT technologies, form a cluster, and attract people to superhuman sports.
This is the Content Innovation Project (CiP). It is being participated in by 50 companies, and is also backed by the Japanese government. I act as a representative for CiP.
CiP has four functions. R&D, human resource development, supporting entrepreneurs, and business matching. A theme is born from this, which we then research to continue the cycle.
Much like as seen in Silicon Valley and Hollywood, we plan to take technology and content, fit it into a small territory, then add a dash of Japanese pop culture in order to turn it into a town. I want cosplayers and robots to come too.
We want the special zone to be a place where creators and entrepreneurs gather. Our desire is to create an atmosphere where those who create technology and designs can play with those who create businesses from them.
Keio University, the university I teach at, has joined us there. I would also like to invite Stanford University, where I previously worked at. Additionally, I would like to make the zone into a place for cutting-edge digital education aimed at children.

The Takeshiba zone has already been certified as a National Strategic Special Zone by the Prime Minister. As a special zone, it functions as an area for the early introduction of various sorts of deregulation.

I want to make it into a zone for drones and robots, and experiment with many different types of technology. We could make it into a special zone for radio waves, and use the radio waves just for superhuman sports. So that everything done in Texas or California can be done in Takeshiba too, I want it to become a Texas special zone and California special zone.

It will be a place where technology and pop culture festivals will be held every day. I want the zone to be a place where SXSW mini-events can be held on every day of the week.

Lastly, I want the zone to act as a hub connecting the US, Europe, and Asia.

Tokyo is a city by the ocean. The same cannot be said for Washington DC, Paris, or London. Nor Rome, Madrid, or even Beijing. We should use Tokyo’s ocean for fun.

A product is currently underway to mobilize life-sized Gundam mobile suits. I dream that by 2020, we will be able to expand our bodies and pilot a Gundam ourselves.

You should join us.


Expanding Humanity’s Limits (part 1 or 2)

 I delivered a speech at SXSW in Austin on “Expanding Humanity’s Limits.”
How does technology expand humanity’s limits? How does it expand our minds and bodies?
Over 30 years ago, I served as the director of a band called Shonen Knife. During this time, it was my challenge to expand the expression of music. Digitization, which was already beginning at this time, has expanded humanity’s potential. During my time at MIT Media Lab 15 years ago, I was working on devices including the Sega Dreamcast and Poo-Chi the Robot Dog. This was my attempt at trying to break ground in the field of smart devices and AI.
Even back then, we already had high hopes for wearable devices, AI, robots, and IoT technology. Today, they have finally become widespread. Our minds and bodies, which have been expanded by smartphones, the internet, and social media over the past 15 years, are about to reach a new level.
At this time, I was doing work in Japan to see to what extent smart media could extend our minds, passion, and expression. With IT-wielding teenagers at its core, Japan is the world’s hot spot for information transmission.
Hatsune Miku is made up of three components. The first is technology, or the Vocaloid software that allows you to input lyrics and music to make the idol sing. The second is expression. It is an open culture where cute anime characters are made.
The final component is that she was raised by everyone via social media. People uploaded their pictures, songs, performances, dances, and other forms of expression to create the Hatsune Mike that we know today. Japan’s current strategy is to use these three components of technology, expression, and internet participation for overseas developments.
However, the point that I would like to make is that technology has already moved onto the next level. Cars are now self-driving thanks to IoT technology. This changes not only the automotive industry, but also businesses and lifestyles. Some theorize that robots and AI will eventually shoulder half of our workload. Currently, 70% of financial transactions are handled by AI.
Siri is already much more knowledgeable than I am. I admit, the personal assistant on my smartphone is smarter than me. This must mean that two smartphones talking together can get a job done. Some people are scared of the prospect of having their jobs taken away by machines, but I wonder what I would do with all of that free time on my hands. What exists out there that cannot be replaced by machines?
One answer is sports. Sports are fun because we move our own bodies to play them and they are exercise. Watching two robots compete against each other would not be very interesting. We should make a new sport with our new technology.
This is why we launched the Superhuman Sports project as we head towards 2020.
Markus Rehm is a German long jump para-athlete. He won the gold medal at the London Paralympics. He set a record for the sport with his jump of 8m40cm. His jump was longer than that of the London Olympic gold medalist’s, which was 8m31cm.
This is an age where prosthetic limb technology allows the disabled to perform better at sports than the non-disabled.
Both Olympians and Paralympians are superhumans. However, I would like to become a superhuman too, and you probably do as well. Think back to your childhood, when you played outside in the fields and tried your hardest to fire a Kamehameha from your palms. What if we could use technology to make that possible?
Humanity has used technology to expand the limits of our bodies. First, we tried to expand the limits of our limbs. We invented canes, prosthetic limbs, lifesavers, boats, cars, airplanes, and rockets. These inventions let us travel faster and further.
We also tried to expand the limits of our senses of sight and hearing. We invented glasses, hearing aids, speakers, phones, television, and the internet. These inventions let us communicate faster and further.
We keep expanding outwards as so. Next, we will take all of these technologies and put them inside of our bodies, and then be forced to ask ourselves exactly what our expanded bodies are. One answer is found in “Superhuman Sports.”
Superhuman sports refers to sports played by athletes who have put new IT and robotics technologies into their body, making them a fusion of human and machine. I would like for us to be able to run on water, or play soccer in midair. Soccer, rugby, and baseball were all sports invented during the 19th century agrarian society. Now is the time for us to make a new sport to represent the information society of the 21st century.
Anyone can become a superhuman with the aid of super prosthetic limbs or advanced wheelchairs. Even children can run faster than Usain Bolt by simply wearing a machine. I also want to develop equipment. For example, a baseball that even someone like me could use to throw an unhittable pitch. Or a bow and arrow for archery that can hit targets kilometers away.
I also want to develop new methods of watching sports. For example, we could fly a drones over marathon runners, allowing viewers to watch them on their run.
I formed the Superhuman Sports Society, which I am a co-representative of,  to help promote this vision. The society has three main activities: Planning, Playing, and Promoting superhuman sports.
Our goal is to hold an international superhuman pentathlon to coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. We also plan to increase player population. Around 1,000 people have taken the opportunity to try our superhuman sports so far, but I want to multiply this number many-fold and reach 10 million players.
Scientists from the robotics, sports science, and game communities have joined our society. Our community also welcomes artists, athletes, and businesses alike.
Our members from various backgrounds work together to develop these superhuman sports, holding events such as the Superhuman Sports Hackathon.