School of Informatics, Nagoya University

Special interview

Special interview

Computer software is monozukuri art

Hiroaki Takada

【Currently】Institute of Innovation for Future Society
【Planned lead】Department of Computer Science, School of Informatics

Hiroaki Takada 1

Computers can notice many things in our lives

-How is the research you are working on useful in our lives?

Computers are being used all around us in various things from small electrical appliances to large vehicles. For example, vehicles, especially expensive cars, contain around 100 computers. More specifically, these computers serve to operate the engine efficiently and ensure the car runs safely by controlling the brakes and steering.

In the near future, we will see a trend in which vehicles are increasingly becoming sophisticated, intelligent and also efficient and safe to drive. As self-driving vehicle technology advances, the handicapped and the elderly will be able to move around with greater freedom. I think artificial intelligence such as self-driving will probably evolve in such a way as we cannot imagine. After all the students who are preparing for entrance exams right now have been actively working for 20 to 30 years, there are researchers who say that artificial intelligence will surpass the level of mankind's intelligence.

The brains to operate everything, an "embedded system"

-Can you tell us more specifically about the details of your research?

The technical term "embedded system" is used when referring to computers contained inside machines such as vehicles and electrical appliances. I am researching how to make this more efficient and safe. I mostly develop the operating system. Computers are the "brains" of the machine. An embedded system is connected to the physical world and the machine so "safety" is the most important keyword. Computers not part of an embedded system only handle information and are not connected to the physical world and the only damage or injury that can result ranges from the computer breaking to the information on the computer being stolen. However, if an embedded system inside a vehicle fails to operate correctly, it will probably cause the vehicle to run out of control. As you can imagine this will have an effect on human lives. Therefore, to maintain the safety of the embedded system we are developing and researching various technologies.

Hiroaki Takada 2

Achieving a better world by understanding what to target, being aware of safety and computer knowledge

-What type of knowledge do you use to achieve this?

Knowledge is required to target control in such as vehicles. However, in addition to this, it is also necessary to have the ability to analyze what will happen if incorrect operation occurs and the operating principles of the computer, or rather how will it operate at such a time? In the world we have the Internet of Things (IoT), which is a sophisticated and intelligent world that connects various things to the internet. When creating this type of world, it also creates new issues such as what to do concerning "security". For example, when boiling water is spit out of a kettle pot due to a cyber attack this is dangerous, don't you think? You return home and the household robot has gone crazy... It has been announced at a scientific conference that it is a reality that cyber attacks can cause vehicles to operate incorrectly. Achieving an advanced information society is also fraught with perils. I just mentioned that "safety" is a keyword and I think it is important that we bear this in mind while working on research and development.

I was completely absorbed in the embedded system world due to my desire to "create" and the feeling of "we can do it!"

-Professor Takada, why have you set your sights on this research?

I liked computers from a young age. It is necessary to understand all about the operating principle of computers to research embedded systems. That is, you can understand all there is to know from computer basics. Knowing about this means computers will operate entirely from the commands I give it. That feeling of "we are doing this!" is interesting and so I delved deeper into this field.

I originally enjoyed making things. Software is "information" and has no physical shape but I believe that developing software is about "monozukuri" or making things so I worked in this field. After finishing a project I feel it was fun and if it is useful then it makes me happy. Actually, I think I have made my hobby my job so you can't call it a hobby now. I love creating software. Even if I am sick with influenza I will happily take the day off and do some programming (laughs). That's how much energy I have for it. I focus on what I enjoy. You could go as far as to say that university students have 100% freedom to work on research they enjoy so if you have an interest, it is best to pursue it to the end.

Hiroaki Takada 3

Requirements for "creating new value" - Have playfulness, collaboration, imagination and a sense of beauty and head towards an advanced information society

-Do you have a message for students wishing to join the School of Informatics?

Information currently creates various value. For example, SNS has changed the shape of communication. Search engines have changed how we search for things. I'm sure you'll agree that they were created to solve some kind of problem. Many things are created from playfulness that says "Let's make something interesting" and as a result this provides society with an indispensable tool. I believe that we will see things emerge from now that did not exist before and it will change the world. I think that this will mostly be due to information technology. To create this kind of new value, you must be able to collaborate with experts from different fields.

Creating new value at the same time brings new issues for what to do about security and the question of handling personal information when using SNS was posed to us. For self-driving vehicles, when there are for example unavoidable obstacles, should the vehicle continue straight on regardless? Should it veer left or right at the obstacle? The answer will change who is hurt in the vehicle. How should a vehicle decide what to do? This is a problem that cannot be solved just by a technical expert. How should people change? How should society accept such a vehicle? If we do not consider all these factors together, we cannot build a great item or society. At the School of Informatics, we have researchers in the fields of psychology, social informatics and philosophy and those who specialize in people and society in addition to computer experts like myself. I believe that we can create new value by collaborating with various people, predicting the problems that lurk within an information society and create ideas together.

Finally, I think creating programs is close to art. It is similar to construction that combines beauty with functionality. Programs for which I feel are beautiful are when its instructions are straight and logical and other people can also understand what it is saying. Since programs are involved with industrial products their major premise is to satisfy what it has been requested to do. However, I also want programs to have a sense of beauty that makes you say "beautiful" or "cool" in addition to this. I am awaiting students who can challenge both these things.

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