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    Japan will participate in NASA’s Lunar Gateway project for the Artemis program / TechCrunch – 2 days ago - 10:50

Japan has officially announced that it will participate with NASA’s Lunar Gateway project (via NHK ), which will seek to establish an orbital research and staging station around the Moon. The Lunar Gateway is a key component of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to land the first American woman and the next American man on the surface of the Moon by 2024.

Japan’s involvement was confirmed on Friday at a meeting of the country’s Strategic Headquarters for National Space Policy, at which Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was present. The governing body accepted a recommendation from a panel established to study the possibility that Japan should indeed join NASA’s efforts.

Working with NASA on its Lunar Gateway will serve to benefit Japan in a few ways, the panel determined, including by boosting its profile as a technology leader and by strengthening U.S.-Japan relations when it comes to ensuring space is a place where international collaboration on peaceful ventures and research can take place.

Further details about how Japan will participate aren’t yet available, which makes sense, given this decision has only just been made. Japanese lunar exploration startup ispace welcomed the news, and anticipates possibly being able to contribute in some capacity, specifically via the partnership it announced with Draper earlier this year .

“We welcome this development with great optimism for the future of lunar exploration, as well as the relationship between Japan and the United States,” said Takeshi Hakamada, founder and CEO of ispace, in an emailed statement. “We firmly believe the Draper-ispace partnership can complement the US-Japan efforts for a sustainable return to the Moon at the commercial level.”

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    Autify raises $2.5M seed round for its no-code software testing platform / TechCrunch – 4 days ago - 16:00

Autify , a platform that makes testing web application as easy as clicking a few buttons, has raised a $2.5 million seed round from Global Brain, Salesforce Ventures, Archetype Ventures and several angels. The company, which recently graduated from the Alchemist accelerator program for enterprise startups, splits its base between the U.S., where it keeps an office, and Japan, where co-founders Ryo Chikizawa (CEO) and Sam Yamashita got their start as software engineers.

The main idea here is that Autify, which was founded in 2016, allows teams to write test by simply recording their interactions with the app with the help of a Chrome extension and can then have Autify run these tests automatically on a variety of other browsers and mobile devices. Typically, these kinds of tests are very brittle and quickly start to fail whenever a developer makes changes to the design of the application.

Autify gets around this by using some machine learning smarts that give it the ability to know that a given button or form is still the same, no matter where it is on the page. Users can currently test their applications using IE, Edge, Chrome and Firefox on macOS and Windows, as well as a range of iOS and Android devices.

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Chikizawa tells me that the main idea of Autify is based on his own experience as a developer. He also noted that many enterprises are struggling to hire automation engineers who can write tests for them, using Selenium and similar frameworks. With Autify, any developer (and even non-developer) can create a test without having to know the specifics of the underlying testing framework. “You don’t really need technical knowledge,” explained Chikizawa. “You can just out of the box use Autify.”

There are obviously some other startups that are also tacking this space, including SpotQA , for example. Chikizawa, however, argues that Autify is different given its focus on enterprises. “The audience is really different. We have competitors that are targeting engineers, but because we are saying that no coding [is required], we are selling to the companies that have been struggling with hiring automating engineers,” he told me. He also stressed that Autify is able to do cross-browser testing, something that’s also not a given among its competitors.

The company introduced its closed beta version in March and is currently testing the service with about a hundred companies. It integrates with development platforms like TestRail, Jenkins and CircleCI, as well as Slack.

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    Waymo and Renault to explore autonomous mobility route in Paris region / TechCrunch – Friday, 11 October - 15:26

Waymo and Renault are working with the Paris region to explore the possibility of establishing an autonomous transportation route between Charles De Gaulle airport and La Défense, a neighbourhood just outside of Paris city limits that plays host to a large number of businesses and skyscrapers, including a large shopping center. This is part of the deal that Renault and Nissan signed with Waymo earlier this year , to work together on potential autonomous vehicle services in both Japan and France.

This route in particular is being explored as a lead-up project to potentially be ready in time for the Paris Olympic Games, which are taking in place in Summer 2024. The goal is to offer a convenient way for people living in the Île-de-France area where Paris is located to get around, while also providing additional transportation options for tourists and international visitors. The region is committing €100 million (around $110 million) to developing autonomous vehicle infrastructure in the area to serve this purpose, across a number of different projects.

“France is a recognized global mobility leader, and we look forward to working with the Ile-de-France Region and our partner Groupe Renault to explore deploying the Waymo Driver on the critical business route stretching from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport to La Défense in Paris,” said Waymo’s Adam Frost, Chief Automotive Programs and Partnerships Officer, in a emailed statement.

Defined routes designed to meet a specific need, especially in time for showcase events like the Olympics, seems to be a likely way that Waymo and others focused on the deployment of autonomous services will work in terms of pilot deployments, since it’s a perfect blend of demand, regulatory exemption and motivation and city/partner support.

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    AI Medical Service raises $42.9 Series B for AI-based software that checks endoscopy scans for signs of cancer / TechCrunch – Friday, 4 October - 11:00

AI Medical Service , a Tokyo-based company developing AI-based software to help detect gastric cancer, announced today that it has raised a $42.9 million Series B. Investors include Globis Capital Partners, World Innovation Lab and Sony Innovation Fund by IGV. The funding will be used for clinical trials of its software, which looks for signs of cancer in real-time during endoscopies, product development and overseas expansion.

This brings AI Medical Service’s total funding so far to $57 million, including a previous round of $9 million from the Incubate Fund in August 2018. Founded in 2017, the company’s software focuses on signs of cancer in gastrointestinal organs, including the esophagus, stomach and intestines, with the goal of reducing the amount of hours doctors and other health professionals need to spend going over scans. AI Medical Service is currently collaborating with 80 medical institution on joint research for regulatory approval of its products.

Dr. Tomohiro Tada, CEO of AI Medical Service, told TechCrunch in an email that the world market for endoscopy is growing by 10% every year, with Japanese manufacturers holding about a 70% market share. For its expansion strategy, Tada says the company will initially focus on other Asian countries, including Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, where there are high rates of stomach cancer. Then it will focus on the U.S. and Canada.

Research shows that about 15% to 30% of lesions are missed during endoscopy procedures and the goal of AI Medical Service is to increase the accuracy of scan results. Its first product, which uses a deep-learning convolutional neural network (CNN) to analyze medical images, will apply for regulatory approval soon.

There are other companies, including ai4gi, Olympus and Shanghai Wision AI, that are also working on AI-based endoscopy technology, but Tada says AI Medical Service does not see them as competitors because it focuses specifically on AI detection of gastric cancer, whereas ai4gi and Wision AI are developing software for colonscopies.

In a prepared statement, Globis Capital Partners director Satoshi Fukushima said “We foresee an irreversible trend of doctors diagnosing cancer in collaboration with AI in the near future. Supported by the world’s leading medical institutions and specialists in the field and led by experienced management, the endoscopy AI developed by AIM has huge potential to help endoscopists and patients globally.”

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    Google brings its Jacquard wearables tech to Levi’s Trucker Jacket / TechCrunch – Monday, 30 September - 18:11

Back in 2015, Google’s ATAP team demoed a new kind of wearable tech at Google I/O that used functional fabrics and conductive yarns to allow you to interact with your clothing and, by extension, the phone in your pocket. The company then released a jacket with Levi’s in 2017, but that was expensive, at $350, and never really quite caught on. Now, however, Jacquard is back. A few weeks ago, Saint Laurent launched a backpack with Jacquard support, but at $1,000, that was very much a luxury product. Today, however, Google and Levi’s are announcing their latest collaboration: Jacquard-enabled versions of Levi’s Trucker Jacket.

These jackets, which will come in different styles, including the Classic Trucker and the Sherpa Trucker, and in men’s and women’s versions, will retail for $198 for the Classic Trucker and $248 for the Sherpa Trucker. In addition to the U.S., it’ll be available in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K.

The idea here is simple and hasn’t changed since the original launch: a dongle in your jacket’s cuff connects to conductive yarns in your jacket. You can then swipe over your cuff, tap it or hold your hand over it to issue commands to your phone. You use the Jacquard phone app for iOS or Android to set up what each gesture does, with commands ranging from saving your location to bringing up the Google Assistant in your headphones, from skipping to the next song to controlling your camera for selfies or simply counting things during the day, like the coffees you drink on the go. If you have Bose noise-canceling headphones, the app also lets you set a gesture to turn your noise cancellation on or off. In total, there are currently 19 abilities available, and the dongle also includes a vibration motor for notifications.

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What’s maybe most important, though, is that this (re-)launch sets up Jacquard as a more modular technology that Google and its partners hope will take it from a bit of a gimmick to something you’ll see in more places over the next few months and years.

“Since we launched the first product with Levi’s at the end of 2017, we were focused on trying to understand and working really hard on how we can take the technology from a single product […] to create a real technology platform that can be used by multiple brands and by multiple collaborators,” Ivan Poupyrev, the head of Jacquard by Google told me. He noted that the idea behind projects like Jacquard is to take things we use every day, like backpacks, jackets and shoes, and make them better with technology. He argued that, for the most part, technology hasn’t really been added to these things that we use every day. He wants to work with companies like Levi’s to “give people the opportunity to create new digital touchpoints to their digital life through things they already have and own and use every day.”

What’s also important about Jacquard 2.0 is that you can take the dongle from garment to garment. For the original jacket, the dongle only worked with this one specific type of jacket; now, you’ll be able to take it with you and use it in other wearables as well. The dongle, too, is significantly smaller and more powerful. It also now has more memory to support multiple products. Yet, in my own testing, its battery still lasts for a few days of occasional use, with plenty of standby time.

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Poupyrev also noted that the team focused on reducing cost, “in order to bring the technology into a price range where it’s more attractive to consumers.” The team also made lots of changes to the software that runs on the device and, more importantly, in the cloud to allow it to configure itself for every product it’s being used in and to make it easier for the team to add new functionality over time (when was the last time your jacket got a software upgrade?).

He actually hopes that over time, people will forget that Google was involved in this. He wants the technology to fade into the background. Levi’s, on the other hand, obviously hopes that this technology will enable it to reach a new market. The 2017 version only included the Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket. Now, the company is going broader with different styles.

“We had gone out with a really sharp focus on trying to adapt the technology to meet the needs of our commuter customer, which a collection of Levi’s focused on urban cyclists,” Paul Dillinger, the VP of Global Product Innovation at Levi’s, told me when I asked him about the company’s original efforts around Jacquard. But there was a lot of interest beyond that community, he said, yet the built-in features were very much meant to serve the needs of this specific audience and not necessarily relevant to the lifestyles of other users. The jackets, of course, were also pretty expensive. “There was an appetite for the technology to do more and be more accessible,” he said — and the results of that work are these new jackets.

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Dillinger also noted that this changes the relationship his company has with the consumer, because Levi’s can now upgrade the technology in your jacket after you bought it. “This is a really new experience,” he said. “And it’s a completely different approach to fashion. The normal fashion promise from other companies really is that we promise that in six months, we’re going to try to sell you something else. Levi’s prides itself on creating enduring, lasting value in style and we are able to actually improve the value of the garment that was already in the consumer’s closet.”

I spent about a week with the Sherpa jacket before today’s launch. It does exactly what it promises to do. Pairing my phone and jacket took less than a minute and the connection between the two has been perfectly stable. The gesture recognition worked very well — maybe better than I expected. What it can do, it does well, and I appreciate that the team kept the functionality pretty narrow.

Whether Jacquard is for you may depend on your lifestyle, though. I think the ideal user is somebody who is out and about a lot, wearing headphones, given that music controls are one of the main features here. But you don’t have to be wearing headphones to get value out of Jacquard. I almost never wear headphones in public, but I used it to quickly tag where I parked my car, for example, and when I used it with headphones, I found using my jacket’s cuffs easier to forward to the next song than doing the same on my headphones. Your mileage may vary, of course, and while I like the idea of using this kind of tech so you need to take out your phone less often, I wonder if that ship hasn’t sailed at this point — and whether the controls on your headphones can’t do most of the things Jacquard can. Google surely wants Jacquard to be more than a gimmick, but at this stage, it kind of still is.

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    SmartNews’ head of product on how the news discovery app wants to free readers from filter bubbles / TechCrunch – Monday, 30 September - 16:29

Since launching in the United States five years ago, SmartNews , the news aggregation app that recently hit unicorn status , has quietly built a reputation for presenting reliable information from a wide range of publishers. The company straddles two very different markets: the U.S. and its home country of Japan, where it is one of the leading news apps.

SmartNews wants readers to see it as a way to break out of their filter bubbles, says Jeannie Yang, its senior vice president of product, especially as the American presidential election heats up. For example, it recently launched a feature, called “News From All Sides,” that lets people see how media outlets from across the political spectrum are covering a specific topic.

The app is driven by machine-learning algorithms, but it also has an editorial team led by Rich Jaroslovsky, the first managing editor of and founder of the Online News Association. One of SmartNews’ goal is to surface news that its users might not seek out on their own, but it must balance that with audience retention in a market that is crowded with many ways to consume content online, including competing news aggregation apps, Facebook and Google Search.

In a wide-ranging interview with Extra Crunch , Yang talked about SmartNews’ place in the media ecosystem, creating recommendation algorithms that don’t reinforce biases, the difference between its Japanese and American users and the challenges of presenting political news in a highly polarized environment.

Catherine Shu: One of the reasons why SmartNews is interesting is because there are a lot of news aggregation apps in America, but there hasn’t been one huge breakout app like SmartNews is in Japan or Toutiao in China. But at the same time, there are obviously a lot of issues in the publishing and news industry in the United States that a good dominant news app might be able to help, ranging from monetization to fake news.

Jeannie Yang: I think that’s definitely a challenge for everybody in the U.S. With SmartNews, we really want to see how we can help create a healthier media ecosystem and actually have publishers thrive as well. SmartNews has such respect for the publishers and the industry and we want to be good partners, but also really understand the challenges of the business model, as well as the challenges for users and thinking of how we can create a healthier ecosystem.

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    Alleged Mangamura Admin Arrested By Japan During Deportation Flight / TorrentFreak – Wednesday, 25 September - 07:47

Over the years, many piracy-related sites and services have been accused of facilitating massive copyright infringement but on sheer scale, few come close to now-shuttered manga site Mangamura.

According to Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA, Mangamura caused around $2.91 billion in damages to the local manga industry. And that was from a standing start in 2016.

While the site closed in 2018, apparently voluntarily, authorities worked to bring its alleged operator to justice. In July 2019 there was a breakthrough when the Bureau of Immigration in the Philippines announced they’d arrested the Japanese-German-Israeli “fugitive” Romi Hoshino.

The 28-year-old, also known online as Zakay/Sakay, was arrested at Ninoy Aquino International Airport as he attempted to board a plane to Hong Kong. The arrest was coordinated with Japanese authorities who were seeking his deportation to face charges connected with the operation of Mangamura.

After reportedly being held in custody at a detention facility in Taguig City, Hoshino boarded a deportation flight to Japan yesterday. Once onboard, he was arrested by Japanese police and flown to Narita Airport, near Tokyo.

A Mainichi report states that Hoshino was arrested in Japan under suspicion of copyright violations.

A video at the airport shows the suspect wearing a blue t-shirt displaying the text ‘Manila Mura’ with his personal web address – – printed underneath. That site currently displays a ‘maintenance mode’ message.

Hoshino was interviewed by Japanese police last year, before he flew to the Philippines in May 2018. According to unnamed sources, he denied being involved in the Mangamura site. He further denied fleeing from Japan, instead citing business and other reasons for his departure.

In addition to action against Hoshino, the noose appears to be tightening on other players allegedly involved in Mangamura.

Earlier this month, 26-year-old Kota Fujisaki pleaded guilty at Fukuoka District Court to uploading copyrighted images to the site, contrary to copyright law. On the same day, a 24-year-old woman, Shiho Ito, pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

The prosecution claimed that images from the 866th episode of manga series ‘One Piece’ were uploaded to Mangamura from Fujisaki’s home in May 2017, where Ito also lived at the time. It’s further claimed that the pair conspired with Hoshino, with Ito receiving payment for the uploads.

Source: TF , for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons .

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    JAXA’s HTV-8 cargo mission to the ISS successfully launches from Tanegashima, Japan / TechCrunch – Tuesday, 24 September - 16:21

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has successfully launched one of its H-IIB rockets, carrying a payload of supplies, experimental materials and new replacement batteries to help power the International Space Station. The rocket, commissioned by Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, took off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at its scheduled instantaneous launch window of 12:05 PM EDT (1:05 AM JST), succeeding during its second try after an initial attempt was scrubbed earlier this month.

This is the eighth launch of the H-IIB, and its H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), and it’s the second-to-last planned mission for the H-IIB before this series of MHI rocket is retired. It’s set to be replaced by the higher capacity, lower cost H3, which MHI hopes to fly for the first time next year.

The HTV-8 (aka ‘Kounotori-8’) mission will deliver a load of cargo to the ISS, separated across both a pressurized and an unpressurized cargo compartment on the HTV unpiloted spacecraft, which will dock with the ISS for unloading. Experiments on board include one that will help scientists study how different regoliths (terrain material from extra-terrestrial bodies, including the Moon and Mars) behave in zero gravity environments; an upgrade for the Cell Biology experiment facility on the ISS, and a new small-sat that will be used to research optical communication in space.

There’s also a new set of six lithium-ion batteries on board that will replace nickel-hydrogen power cells on the station, which will involve a number of spacewalks and use of the station’s robotic manipulation devices to install later this year. Nickel-hydrogen batteries have been popular for use in satellites and spacecraft, but lithium-ion has some advantages in terms of recharge and discharge speed, and battery memory, though they aren’t as long-lived as the exiting variety. The ISS is already operating beyond its service life, however, and NASA hopes that I’ll eventually be replaced by a commercial space station, so that’s probably not as much of a concern.

The HTV spacecraft will now continue to the ISS where it will attach to the Harmony module of the station, where it’s set to spend about a month as its cargo is unloaded by ISS astronauts.