South by Southwest Report – "The Future of Mobility and i-ROAD"

SXSW Report "OPEN ROAD PROJECT"

Event

Over the years, South by Southwest (SXSW) has risen to rank as the world's most intensely followed interactive music film festival.
At JAPAN HOUSE, an event held for the two days of March 14 and 15 as one part of SXSW 2016 designed to profile
Japan's most prominent current technologies, the OPEN ROAD PROJECT was a genuine headliner session.
In this installment, we report upon this phase of the SXSW gathering, as well as the OPEN ROAD session of the event.
The latter was an effort organized by globally renowned robotics engineer Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University
and Yumi Otsuka, Director of the Toyota Motor Corporation Future Office. The theme chosen was "The Future of Mobility."
Viewed from the perspective generated by i-ROAD, the streamlined urban personal mobility car from Toyota,
just what wisdom was taken home from an event that brings together so much of the world's cutting edge technology?
Over the years, South by Southwest (SXSW) has risen to rank as the world's most intensely followed interactive music film festival.
At JAPAN HOUSE, an event held for the two days of March 14 and 15 as one part of SXSW 2016 designed to profile Japan's most prominent current technologies, the OPEN ROAD PROJECT was a genuine headliner session.
In this installment, we report upon this phase of the SXSW gathering, as well as the OPEN ROAD session of the event. The latter was an effort organized by globally renowned robotics engineer Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University and Yumi Otsuka, Director of the Toyota Motor Corporation Future Office. The theme chosen was "The Future of Mobility."
Viewed from the perspective generated by i-ROAD, the streamlined urban personal mobility car from Toyota, just what wisdom was taken home from an event that brings together so much of the world's cutting edge technology?

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Gathering of High Technology
and Contents

Gathering of High Technology and Contents

Austin, Texas – a thriving city in the southern United States. In March of each year, people flock here from around the world to get first-hand glimpses of the latest emerging trends in technology.
Their destination is South by Southwest (SXSW) – the world’s largest scale festival of contents and business organized to bring onboard interactive music film.

This year marked the 30th time that this get-together was held, with the keynote speaker on that milestone occasion none other than U.S. President Barack Obama himself.
This was the first time that an incumbent American President ever appeared at SXSW, underscoring just how much impact the event has come to wield, as well as the importance with which it is positioned and viewed in the U.S. and worldwide.

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With the interactive sector having surfaced as a key stepping stone to success for start-up companies in the current day and age, it notes mention that Twitter and many other internationally famed services first rose to eminence from SXSW.

The 2016 edition of SXSW was held during the 10-day period of March 11-20, attracting a total of more than 100,000 visitors during that time. Springing up all around Austin during those dates were demonstrations and events designed to enable participants to experience the latest technological breakthroughs, pavilions sponsored by individual companies, lectures, seminars, meeting opportunities, trade shows and other types of gatherings. There was such a full plate of events underway, in fact, that many visitors found it extremely tough to decide what to view first.

One of the particularly eye-catching features was the "Virtual Reality Headset." The majority of companies incorporated this technology into their own respective exhibits, showing just what a major global trend such units have become.

While ranking as the world’s largest scale business fair known for pooling the latest breakthroughs in technology and contents, the hosting of the event on the city streets of Austin fosters a distinctively relaxed and casual ambiance. The exchanges taking place here between the star-studded gathering of creative personnel, venture capitalists, academics and other experts from numerous different fields prove pivotal in generating this tranquil and laidback atmosphere. The Austin locale is one of the key appeals of the event itself, coming across as a major factor in generating such a richly innovative environment.

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Androids and Future Lifestyles

Androids and Future Lifestyles

During the 10-day calendar of SXSW 2016, the dates of March 14 and 15 were set aside for the sponsoring of "JAPAN HOUSE," an official event focused on frontier technology forecast to expand the potential of human beings in robotics, mobility and other vital areas. In keeping with this concept, chosen as the event theme was "Extension of Humanity."

The main program featured globally renowned robotics engineer Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University, who delivered a presentation under the topic of "Androids and Future Lifestyles." Proving particularly popular was a demonstration of voice interaction technology featuring "Geminoid HI-4," an android modeled after Professor Ishiguro, and the social interactive robot "CommU."

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The Future of Mobility

The Future of Mobility

The profiling of the OPEN ROAD PROJECT was another main component of the JAPAN HOUSE event.
Appearing in this special program was Toyota Motor Corporation Future Office Director Yumi Otsuka, along with Professor Ishiguro from the Android sessions. They both concentrated on the i-ROAD in delivering presentations aimed at probing the theme of "The Future of Mobility."
The session by Office Director Otsuka covered "Small Space Parking," the "ROAD KITCHEN" exterior parts production service and other endeavors advanced under the OPEN ROAD PROJECT umbrella to date.

Professor Ishiguro’s talk dealt with the experience of actually test-driving the i-ROAD around Tokyo and Osaka, touching upon the physical sensation of piloting that car on city streets. His thoughts on mobility, drawn from the uniquely keen perspective that only a robotics engineer can offer, proved quite riveting indeed. The crowds gathering for these presentations found themselves deeply absorbed in the fascinating information and insights that these two highly knowledgeable speakers presented.

The final part of this program was a special talk session that brought together Professor Ishiguro and Office Director Otsuka on the same stage.
Basking in a highly candid yet deeply relaxed atmosphere, the pair swapped impressions and ideas on the pleasures and potential of the i-ROAD as a mobility car, the emerging state of urban mobility and other timely subjects.

In the Q&A session that followed, audience members posed a steady stream of questions concerning the i-ROAD. This further stressed the stellar interest in this ultra-compact car, helping envelop the JAPAN HOUSE venue in a truly passionate mood.

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The i-ROAD car itself was also on display inside the program hall. That attracted intense attention and surprise from visitors – most of who were laying eyes on the vehicle for the very first time.

The intrigued expressions of people as they became aware of the strengths of i-ROAD as a mobility car, not to mention the infinite potential that it implies for mobility of the future were extremely striking to say the least.

In this way, the OPEN ROAD PROJECT has interacted with the progressive and upbeat atmosphere for which SXSW is so celebrated. This and various other new encounters certainly bode well for the project’s redoubled evolution and enhancement over the years to come.
If these reactions and results are any indication, the OPEN ROAD PROJECT promises to continue to excel as a major magnet for expanding attention and appeal from here on as well.

TEXT&PHOTOGRAPHS BY Tomoyuki Kato (contributor)

ISSUED : 26 April 2016