7 Japanese teams awarded at this year’s Microsoft Innovation Award

7 Japanese teams awarded at this year’s Microsoft Innovation Award

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See the original story in Japanese.
This article is part of our coverage of Microsoft Innovation Day in Tokyo.

Under the theme of ‘innovation by software,’ Microsoft Innovation Award had been established to award a software or service which had achieved realization of innovative ideas. Previous award winners include AgIC (electronic circuit printing technology using conductive ink), Opect (gesture control for surgeons during their operation), Shikumi Design (new-gen music instrument), and TVision Insights  (effective TV rating measurement technology).

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This year, 16 startups covering hardware, AI (artificial intelligence) or IoT (internet of things) had given pitches as finalists. Eventually, the University of Tsukuba Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, developing BioSync which enables synchronous kinesthetic interactions among people, won the Best Team Award and Japan Airlines (JAL) Entrepreneur Award. The following were the jurors for the competition.

  • Yoshiaki Ishii, Director, New Business Policy Office, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
  • Katsura Itoh, Developer and Evangelism Lead, Microsoft Japan
  • Fumihiko Nakajima, Senior Director, Business Development, Dentsu CDC
  • Ken Nishimura, Chief Editor, TechCrunch Japan
  • Shumpei Fukui, Principal, Archetype
  • Tomonori Yako, IoT Innovation Center Chief and Executive Consultant, Ufuru

The following introduces seven startups which won the Best Team Award and sponsor awards. Incidentally, every finalist team was provided prizes from accounting software maker Yayoi as well as Microsoft.

The Best Team Award winner / JAL Entrepreneur Award winner: BioSync by Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, University of Tsukuba

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BioSync is a device for next-gen rehabilitation by “hacking” human bodies. It consists of a sensor device which measures changes of myogenic potential changes and a device which receives these signals for transmission as potential changes. By linking into / being linked by another person with general cable used for earphones, the device enables an understanding of kinesthetics for physically-disabled people, or realize effective rehabilitation by sharing healthy people’s sense of muscle activities with handicapped people. As an example of use, the team had succeeded in development of feeding spoon for people with neuromuscular disorders.

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Jury’s Special Award / The Bridge Award: The Voice by Hmcomm

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Hmcomm had started as a technology transfer venture from Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and has been developing cloud-based voice recognition engine called The Voice. Although voice recognition R&D has been continuing for many years, it is still far attaining a fully practical level. However, thanks to the rapid progress in hardware or network since 2010s the environment to dramatically improve the processing performance of voice recognition has been set, with the market expanding along with the advance in communication robots. The team is also seeking a solution for problems as to conventional voice recognition technologies, like recognition difficulties during crosstalk or in noisy locations.

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Jury’s Special Award: AI-based life science image analysis system by LPixel

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Although 90% of the academic papers are publicized with images in recent years, most of the author researchers did not learn about image processing. LPixel analyzes a large quantity of data with high accuracy, outputs images then enables pasting of images onto papers by easy operation which even children can do. It was developed under the concept of having AI as a research assistant. The team has acquired three patents, and LPixel ImageJ Plugins has exceeded 30,000 downloads.

Audience Award / PR TIMES Award: Secual by Secual

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Secual is a smart home security service linked to the Internet. It provides WiFi-connectable intruder detection sensors and a cloud service at a low price, and allows users to recognize irregularities in their own house from outside locations via smartphones. The team had obtained the seed fund from Will Group Incubate Fund in June 2015, subsequently fundraising 60 million yen (about $550,000) from lease property agent Ambition and vacation rental startup Adventure in December 2015. In March 2016, it agreed to a strategic capital alliance with Investors Cloud.

Audience Award: Bioelectric-controlled prosthesis by Meltin MMI

Meltin MMI, born from the Incubation Center of the University of Electro-Communications, showcased the robot hand / bioelectric-controlled prosthesis. The team had fundraised from Euglena-SMBC Nikko-Leave a Nest Capital and Glocalink this January, following by winning the prize in the startup category at Real-Tech Venture of the Year 2016 organized by Leave a Nest this March.

Samurai Incubate Award: Kagura by Shikumi Design

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Kagura is a next-gen music instrumental platform enabling music to be played just with physical movement, based on distance and gesture recognition technologies. Adopting Intel®RealSense™3D, the app had been launched for Mac in July 2015 then subsequently for Windows. The Shikumi Design team had won the top award in Intel® Perceptual Computing Challenge 2013.

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Tech in Asia Award: Milbox Touch by White

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Various kinds of cheap VR (virtual reality) goggles that allow feeling a sense of immersion by inserting smartphones into cardboard box cases have been appearing. However, a major defect of these products is that users cannot touch smartphones’ screen directly to control apps by swiping, scrolling or tapping. Milbox Touch is an electrode seal with high sensitivity for transmitting current change to smartphones, enabling control of apps by touching the surface with the seal.

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The White team is applying for a patent on the seal, and aims OEM (original equipment manufacturer) supply to other VR goggles such as Google Cardboard. Currently, the team has been developing a PacMan game for VR as well, also provides a SDK (Software Development Kit) embeddable in games, free of charge. The SDK is available for Unity, Xamarin, iOS and Android. The team plans to start OEM supply of the seal and launch of PacMan at the end of April 2016.

Translated by Taijiro Takeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy