“Dazzle them with innovation”:
Developing future-oriented products, ideas, and systems HWIP students participate in Next Visionary student forum

January 10 and 11, 2014 KNOWLEDGE CAPITAL Congrès Convention Center (Kita-ku, Osaka)

Leading Programs from across Japan come together to talk about the future

Students, faculty and staff in Programs for Leading Graduate Schools around the country came together to share information and experiences at the Leading Forum 2013 (for details, see the “Topics” section). One of the main events in the forum was a special student forum titled “Next Visionary”. Teams of students competed against one another with presentations identifying future challenges and proposing approaches to deal with them using new technologies. The teams could choose from four different themes: “Innovative Devices”, “Sustainability of Resources or Infrastructure”, “Social Disparity and Conflict” (divided into two parts: health issues, and social and environmental disparity), and “Japan and/or Global, Now and the Future”. Presentations were made by the following four teams from the Humanware Innovation Program.

・Team Kugelschreiber: Ending Life in Comfort (Innovative Devices)

This was a joint effort by HWIP student Tomofumi Sakai and students in the Interdisciplinary Program for Biomedical Sciences. With greater industrial efficiency and increased life expectancy, people now have more spare time and a longer life beyond work. These circumstances point to future growth in demand in areas such as the recording of personal life histories and the provision of companionship for isolated individuals. With these needs in mind, this team presented a proposal for portable headgear equipped with interactive memory function, using a combination of holograms and artificial personality.

・Team Auf: Water Infrastructure Attuned to the Natural World (Sustainability of Resources or Infrastructure)

HWIP students Risa Sawada and Taishi Kakizuka collaborated on this presentation with students from Osaka University’s Cross-Boundary Innovation Program and Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Advanced Leadership Studies. Water infrastructure is central to environmental issues. At present, this infrastructure relies heavily on complex and energy-intensive systems, placing considerable stress on the natural environment. With a view to achieving harmony with nature and greater sustainability, this team proposed adopting a “plant-based purification method” that makes use of the power of vegetation.

・Team NO MORE DOCTOR!!: NO MORE DOCTOR!! (Sustainability of Resources or Infrastructure)

This team was composed of HWIP students Natsuki Hiasa, Junya Nakanishi, Tenma Shimizu, Le-Shi Lee, and Zuben Brown, together with students from Osaka University’s Interactive Materials Science Cadet Program. Early detection of illness, minimization of medical treatment costs, and alleviation of workloads for medical professionals will all be key priorities in the long-life society of the future. This team proposed a device that enables people to monitor their own health on a daily basis.

・Team HWIP+: Education System to Resolve Genetic Disparity (Social Disparity and Conflict: Health issues)

The members of this all-HWIP team were Kento Tokuyama, Tatsuya Nakamura, Ryo Mizuuchi, Dashdavaa Khureltulga, Nattapong Thammasan, and Kenji Sakai. It is envisaged that in the future, the analysis of individual genetic sequences will be cheap, simple, and readily accessible, leading to “disparity based on genetic superiority”. This team proposed an educational curriculum that could extend individuals’ strengths and support their weaknesses from a genetic perspective.

“World Café” provides an exciting start

The top presentation was decided through a three-stage assessment process. On the first day of the event, the teams presented in a “World Café” format, with four rounds of 30 minutes each in featuring two presenters from each team. The rounds involved ten minute presentations followed by Q&A and discussion with other teams and the general audience. Teams were assessed and awarded scores in this first-stage screening through peer review of both the presentations and discussions. Each team had two chances to present, enabling them to refine their second presentations in light of the questions arising from the first. All teams approached this task with enthusiasm, and lively discussion ensued. In some cases the discussion became so vigorous that presenters left their desks and engaged the audience directly. In the end, three HWIP teams were selected to proceed to the second round: HWIP+, Kugelschreiber, and Auf.

Fine tuning structure and expression with the final round in sight

The second day of proceedings consisted of a repechage round in the morning and second-round presentations in the afternoon in front of a large audience. Unfortunately, the NO MORE DOCTOR!! team was unsuccessful in its bid to regain a place in the competition, but the remaining three teams acted on feedback from the first day and produced presentations that were both more comprehensible and more attuned to current needs. Other teams made similar improvements, of course, and the competition remained tightly contested. When the results were announced, it was Team Auf that had succeeded in winning through to the final round.
This final round was contested by five teams in total. Each one of them delivered a presentation that was feasible, realistic and effectual, making it very difficult to pick a frontrunner. Unfortunately Team Auf did not take out First Prize, but their efforts were certainly rewarded with hearty applause from the audience.
Feedback on the presentations sometimes included harsh words from industry representatives, leaving teams with a sense that the still had a long way to go. At the same time, however, participants gained a real sense of the great things that can be achieved through teamwork, and the importance of employing multi-faceted approaches. This experience is sure to prove valuable in the future.

Comments from participating students

Risa Sawada (Team Auf)
I participated in a joint team with students from other universities, so one of the greatest benefits for me was the opportunity to engage with students beyond my regular circle of interaction in the preparatory stages. At the actual forum, I was also delighted to be able to talk with other Leading Program students, industry representatives, and faculty members from other universities. This two-day event has made me realize that many, many people hold high expectations of Leading Program students. I will be approaching my studies with an even greater sense of awareness and responsibility from now on.