Founding words

Establishing the Cooperative Intelligence Joint Research Chair − Hiroshi Tsujino (ex-President/CEO, Honda Research Institute Japan Co., Ltd. (at establishment), current-President/CEO, Honda Research Institute USA)

Speaking of the future

My relationship with Kyoto University goes back several decades. About 25 years ago, I arrived at the gates of Kyoto University, the center of AI research, with such basic questions as, “Exactly what is artificial intelligence? What is it composed of? What can it do?” (Looking back, I was so naïve!). At the time, Prof. Makoto Nagao had a laboratory there. When I went to visit him, bringing a box of treats, he listened to my questions and then introduced me to Prof. Takashi Matsuyama and also Prof. Yuichi Nakamura. This began a series of discussions on AI for about a year. I cannot express how grateful I am for the valuable time these incredibly passionate professors devoted to this young and inexperienced person. I also recall getting help later, developing the new academic field of "Robot Audition," proposed by Prof. Hiroshi Okuno of the Department of Intelligence Science and Technology, and turning out many excellent researchers and engineers. The impetus for establishing this joint research chair came in January 2016, when recalling the many talks with Prof. Matsuyama. As we spoke about earlier times, we shared a feeling of urgency to propose a new concept of AI and to begin research on it. Although it was not yet a fully formed concept, we had our first discussions on "Cooperative Intelligence" to make these thoughts more concrete with professors from the Intelligence Science and Technology Department in April 2016. In June, we held a workshop to further this discussion in Kyoto, involving researchers from Honda Research Institute Japan, the USA, and Europe, and now we have established the Cooperative Intelligence Research Chair together with the Intelligence Science and Technology Department.

However, fate was not kind. Just before the joint research was to begin, in December 2016, Professor Matsuyama suddenly passed away. Just before he died, we happened to talk about how research in Japan was always at the leading edge, and the future of the Intelligence Science and Technology Department at Kyoto University. This research chair could not have been started without the enthusiasm and assistance of Prof. Matsuyama. We want to put special effort into the research chair, even if only to carry out Prof. Matsuyama’s last wishes.

This joint research also conforms to the vision of the Honda Research Institute: “Understand and Learn from People.” We are gathering people from around the world to talk about the future. To understand the essence of people and of knowledge, to use that understanding to create innovative technology that is useful to people, to further expand active research and discussion, and to constantly produce new artificial intelligence research in Kyoto. These are the types of activity we are striving for.

We would like to thank you for your understanding and cooperation in conceiving Cooperative Intelligence and establishing this joint research chair.

Hopes for the Cooperative Intelligence Joint Research Chair − Takatsune Kumada (Professor, Dept. Intelligence Science & Technology, Kyoto University)

Great hopes for this joint research chair

“Cooperative Intelligence.” Realizing this is such an exciting prospect. However, to finally begin practical research is a dizzying prospect. With no precedents and a wide expanse of possibility ahead, it is difficult to know where and how to start. The launch of this joint research chair is accompanied by a mix of such hopes and uncertainties.

Most of the professors in the Intelligence Science and Technology Department, myself included, first met Mr. Hiroshi Tsujino of Honda Research Institute Japan in April 2016. That was also our first encounter with the term “Cooperative Intelligence.” Thereafter, through discussion at workshops and other activities, a rough outline began to emerge. The concept suggested a new vision for the relationship between human and artificial intelligence, and we became increasingly confident that it would bring dramatic changes in the world. To bring all of the resources of the Intelligence Science and Technology Department to bear on this challenge, we first got agreement from all of the core faculty in the department, and as it happens, last fiscal year I was the director of the department and became the departmental contact for the research chair.

As department director in these two years, watching over the department, I often felt concerns for the current state and the future of the department. The world is in the midst of an AI boom, but rather than simply following this trend, we wanted to ask, “What should we do to continue practical basic research and drive development,” and “What must the Department of Intelligence Science and Technology do to avoid being buried in the AI boom and to continue to be a truly innovative and unique presence?” Especially in this past year, I have discussed these issues many times with Prof. Matsuyama. I think Prof. Matsuyama, who was planning to retire this March, considered this research chair as a kind of parting gift for the future of the Intelligence Science and Technology Department, which he himself created and nurtured. It is really unfortunate, but he passed away in December, 2016, and was not able to see the fruits of that effort.

One feature of the Department of Intelligence Science and Technology since its inception is that it has many professors in a broad range of fields, beyond technical fields like computer science, such as neuroscience, psychology, and the life sciences. However, I have noticed recently that as research in each of the laboratories has become more advanced and innovative, the barriers between laboratories have become higher. Prof. Matsuyama also shared this awareness. It was becoming normal that there was almost no interaction between laboratories in the department, even though they were conducting closely related research, and the possibility that this was narrowing the perspective of young researchers and graduate students was a great concern. From this, I had a sense that the department was not adequately utilizing its advantages of scale and interdisciplinary nature.

I would like to make the new joint research chair, which came into being under these conditions, into a new test case for open innovation. Cooperative Intelligence, which strives for new types of cooperation between humans and AI, is an excellent theme for this department with its coexisting laboratories in broad range of fields related to humans and AI. All professors, researchers, and students in the department and participants from the Honda Research Institute need to open up, pitting their ideas against each other and enjoying their research through “free and open interaction,” which is a tradition at Kyoto University. I believe that following that, new forms of relationship between humans and AI will appear, and lead to dramatic changes in the world. This research chair will provide a place for stimulating experiences, especially for students, young researchers and the faculty, and we are currently planning several initiatives to this end. We have great hopes that from these efforts will sprout some truly innovative research that will change the world.

Through collaboration with the Honda Research Institute, the very best research environment has come to life in the Department of Intelligence Science and Technology. Whether something comes out of this depends on each and every member. I have the highest expectations of all of you, in proactive participation and enthusiastic research. I would also like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere thanks to Prof. Tsujino and everyone else at the Honda Research Institute.