|

‘Angel or Devil,’ ‘Cambrian Palace,” Y!mobile

by Philip Brasor

Recently, an artificial intelligence program developed by Google defeated several champions of the Asian board game go. The program’s achievement made headlines all over the world since go is considered a very complex game. The programmers, in fact, thought it would take much longer for their creation to beat a human.

On May 15, NHK will air a special, “Tenshi ka, Akuma ka” (“Angel or Devil?”; NHK-G, 9 p.m.) that follows shōgi (Japanese chess) champion Yoshihara Habu to several locations to find out more about work on artificial intelligence. Shogi, incidentally, may be even more complex than go.

Habu travels to Britain to talk to the people who developed the Google program; to the U.S. to visit a venture business that invented a program to diagnose cancer based on images; and to a Japanese company that is trying to figure how to imbue AI with emotions.

Coffee has become ridiculously popular in Japan. In 2013 the country imported 503,000 tons, a new record.

The biggest coffee company in Japan is UCC, whose president, Masaro Ueshima, is profiled on the economic documentary program “Kamburiya Kyuden” (“Cambrian Palace”; TV Tokyo, Thurs., 10 p.m.). UCC handles everything there is to about coffee in Japan — from roasting to marketing and packaging. It even owns a chain of coffee shops.

Ueshima travels all over the world, visiting coffee plantations in an effort to constantly improve the quality of his product, and is considered the most informed person in the industry in Japan. He explains his philosophy and introduces some new ideas for the future, including a “sparkling coffee.”

CM of the week

Y!mobile Since cat videos refuse to die an honorable death, newscaster Mirei Kiritani shares her reporting desk with a tabby. The story she’s reporting is about how potential customers have recently “mobbed” (“momikucha“) outlets for cellphone carrier Y!mobile. The cat says that it sounds like something he would enjoy, and Kiritani, mimicking the movement of cats paws with her hands, asks if this is what he means. “What are you doing?” the cat responds, obviously perplexed by human behavior, which could also apply to the customers trying so desperately to get into the Y Mobile store.