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Data Science Research Laboratories

September 15, 2021

Producing Innovative AI Technologies That Serve Society

At the Data Science Research Laboratories, we research and develop AI that is actually utilized in society. Our mission is to rapidly implement innovative AI technologies in society.
In recent years, we have been focusing our efforts on the development of Explainable AI in particular. Explainable AI is a type of AI that can clearly indicate the reason for the judgment of an AI, which was previously a black box. As one such AI, we developed a technology that shows IF-THEN rules to break down the reason for judgment that a person can interpret. In a manner such as "IF room temperature > 30.0 AND voltage > 200.0 THEN failure probability = 80%," the AI discovers the rule set to derive the correct answer, so it ensures the explainability and verifiability at a high level.
In addition, we have also conducted research using an approach which incorporates simulation technologies into AI to explore every possibility and pattern. By using this technology, it can present reference points in the operation manual and simulation results to rapidly show the optimal recovery procedure when the status of a large-scale system such as a plant becomes unstable.
We are also engaged in researching "Negotiation between AIs," which is an extremely unique technology. This technology calculates the optimal actions for both parties through negotiation between the AIs. For example, if both the buyer and the seller are AIs, it could negotiate the price and delivery date, etc. to derive the best points for possible compromise. This technology is rare in the world, and NEC is proud to be on the cutting edge of this field.
Meanwhile, NEC is producing unique and creative sensing technologies utilizing technologies developed in communications, a field that NEC has been involved in for many years.
"Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR)" uses radio waves instead of visible light to monitor the surface of the earth from a satellite, so it is not affected by clouds at all. Moreover, because it can detect changes with a resolution of a few millimeters, it can be used in infrastructure maintenance, etc. In addition, we are producing various technologies such as optical fiber sensing that uses the deformation characteristics of optical signal propagating in optical fiber when vibrations occur on the fiber, enabling the monitoring of traffic on a highway; and a long-distance LiDAR technology which enhances the LiDAR mounted on self-driving vehicles, etc. to perceive 3D shapes and anomalies at several kilometers away.

Developing Creative Technologies in Data Mining and Robotics As Well

We are also developing practical and innovative technologies in data mining, an area which discovers new forms of value from data. For example, the field of mathematical optimization technologies, which derive the optimal solution from among various conditions, is being broadly researched around the world. However, NEC's mathematical optimization is able to flexibly adapt to environmental changes as well.
Moreover, data is integrated when performing big data analysis, but in many cases the labels are slightly different when the data was created by separate organizations. For example, one set may use the label "name" while the other uses "full name" or expressions such as "number of people" and "scale" may be mixed together. The "Data Understanding with Semantic Technology" which we developed handles this problem by inferring and integrating the meaning of data based on statistical features, linguistic similarities, and other characteristics.
We are also conducting research in the field of autonomous robotics. “Goal oriented task planning,” which is our original AI-based technology for automatic robot teaching, allows complex task and motion planning for robotic manipulation just from simple and abstract goal state instructions such as "place object A in Tray 1 and object B in Tray 2." It can also flexibly respond to environmental changes without trial-and-error of the teaching.
The researchers of the Data Science Research Laboratories have had many papers accepted by world-renowned international conferences, and the laboratories are particularly strong in core research even within NEC. However, our ultimate goal is simply to actually serve a useful purpose within society. In 2020, we spun out "BIRD INITIATIVE, Inc." to accelerate the creation of new businesses through co-creation R&D and also demonstrated a new commercialization model. The company will promote speedy commercialization and verification free of conventional frameworks.