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【Ryota Kawamata】
Third Development Department
Work Solutions Development Division
RICOH COMPANY, LTD.

Born in 1982 in Miyagi Prefecture. Graduated in 2007 from Tohoku University's Graduate School of Engineering with a master's degree in electronic engineering. Joined Ricoh that same year, where he worked on developing base systems, such as the OS and drivers for MFPs. Since then, he has developed software for super-short-focus projectors and has been in charge of networking capabilities for projectors with a focus on Wi-Fi connectivity. Continues to develop for projectors and is now also involved in improving the development process by implementing systems engineering techniques.

【Chiyomaru Shikura】
Game Creator

Born 3 July. Learned programming at a young age, later joined Human Co., Ltd. as a sound programmer. Left to found 5pb. Inc. Currently executive director of Mages. Inc. Active as a music producer, and in planning and creating science adventure games like Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate, and Robotics;Notes, as well as in starting restaurants and cafes. Now writing his first novel, Occultic;Nine. Posts on Twitter as @chiyomaru5pb.

Can digital storage last forever?

Kawamata: By the way, in this world of 2036, we would need to store and back up data, right?
Shikura: Exactly. The images, audio, and other data exchanged as neural pulses would be of a completely different format and of a much larger volume than today's digital data. This couldn't be stored in a carrier node earring.
Kawamata: So it would be the BMI as a set with an external device.
Shikura: Yes. And in a conventional conceptualization, I'd expect the backup to be digital, but…do you have any good ideas about that?
Kawamata: Hmm, well…we'd probably need something different from the magnetic tape and SSDs we have now. Recent research projects have been trying to use arrays of organic molecules as memory. But no matter how small the memory device, a molecule can record an enormous amount of data, and I think this is a very promising possibility, if a storage environment can also be established.
Shikura: Well! So you mean like DNA or something like that? Could that be realized by 2036?

Talking about the future: the year 2036

Kawamata: I think any practical implementation of molecular memory devices is probably still a way off [wry laughter]. However, it also sounds like quantum computing is soon to become a usable reality, so, given another 30 years, Ricoh might be able to put quantum computers into its household device products.
Shikura: A world where we live surrounded by digital devices equipped with brains that go beyond human capabilities…thinking about these things able to calculate any and every phenomenon, from the global environment to how humans think, gives me the shivers. Might we ourselves be no more than programs running on some computer somewhere?
Kawamata: That sounds like the world of the Matrix movies.
Shikura: At that point, I think we'll see something much more than just raw computer processing power, something like a big-bang kind of revolution…But then a hyper-evolved digital world might also be a danger. [laughs]
Kawamata: But, even should we see some kind of cataclysmic change in digital technology or the environment in 2036, there will most likely be a couple of people at some point having a chat together about what the future holds, much like you and I are doing right now. That thought makes me kind of happy. [laughs]

* All names of companies, products, and services used on this website are the registered trademarks of their respective companies.

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People will be absorbed into the digital world!?

Shikura: I think people in the future will resist going under the knife to have a digital device implanted. Even current Lasik operations haven't gained full acceptance from everyone. What I'm thinking of here would be more like getting an ear pierced, where a plug is simply popped into place.
Kawamata: Ah, yes. Limiting the range of access by means of physical contact with a plug makes things simple from a transmission security perspective, too. The risk of one's own brain information leaking, whether publicly or privately, is something we'd want to absolutely minimize.
Shikura: Security will really become much more important. That's because, in the near future, if wearable devices like glasses or wristwatches can tap directly into neural pulses, people might get absorbed into the digital world.
Kawamata: Wow, hacking people themselves—that's kind of scary.
Shikura: Yes, it is. But I think it's scarier the way that digital technology, as it is, will evolve beyond the extent of the five human senses.

Communication as if by a sixth sense

Kawamata: Certainly, as digital images reached the 4K level, things have caught up with the highest degree of precision possible with the 35mm film of the analog age. If digital technology continues evolving, things might continue expanding past the threshold of human perception.
Shikura: Absolutely. Much as in the game console and music industries, digital picture and sound quality will soon surpass what humans can perceive. Once that happens, it then becomes a question of what benefit any further enhancements can be.
Kawamata: This kind of contradiction is unique to transition periods.
Shikura: Yes, yes. If digital evolution exceeds the bounds of the five human senses, I think it would be dangerous if we couldn't then shift our means of communication to a kind of sixth sense as the next stage for humanity.
Kawamata: And that solution would be neural pulse connections.
Shikura: In a world where computers and humans can connect directly via a carrier node, any and every digital device could probably be made to suit humans' circumstances seamlessly. As part of that extension, communication between people would change into something more efficient and optimized.
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2036 looks very personal

Shikura: When I hear the name Ricoh, I think about copiers. Incidentally, what would be the greatest technology now at Ricoh?
Kawamata: Starting from copiers or multifunction printers, our area of business is now expanding to cover ideas for improving overall office workflows. These kinds of services and solutions are actually now Ricoh's main forte.
Shikura: Right, so this evolution is the inevitable outcome. The evolution of networks, too, is progressing in ways that are different from those of copiers, so you're talking about bringing these technologies together.
Kawamata: That's because, once copiers become multifunction printers and are connected to the network, they're no longer standalone devices. That's also the case from a security perspective.
Shikura: Looking ahead to a time when people won't even put their hands on paper, even more changes will no doubt be needed…Well, I guess things are already changing, aren't they?
Kawamata: Our predictions for the future in this talk also touched on the generation gap. In 2036, I'll be counted in the older middle-aged bracket…that made this all feel very personal, like something that will affect me. [laughs]

The generation gap won't disappear

Shikura: I can imagine saying, "I can't tell what you're saying unless you can show me a hologram." [laughs] The generation gap might be shifting upward as technology progresses, but it definitely won't disappear.
Kawamata: Yeah, Ricoh is also working on creating very "now" products that do things like linking with a smartphone, but, on the flip side, another one of our goals is creating products that anyone can use and that don't present any generational barriers.
Shikura: All kinds of gadgets are coming out every day, but that's because the ultimate form definitely trends toward a kind of simplicity.
Kawamata: Even so, the idea, this time, of communication that goes beyond the five senses to allow us to engage via cerebral neural pulses is really quite bold. In some ways, you might also say it's the simplest approach.
Shikura: That's because it's the most direct way that people at presentations or at meetings could let each other see their images. Of course, that also raises the risk of a kind of brain leak or logorrhea, where you accidentally transmit images you don't want other people to see. [laughs]
Kawamata: Yeah, it seems like this system would need some kind of filter for selecting certain ideas. [Laughs] It seems really convenient, but do you think people would go for implants?
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In this, our third talk, we met on the premises of game maker Mages. Inc., in the Ebisu area of Tokyo. The company's executive director, Chiyomaru Shikura, chatted with Ricoh engineer Ryota Kawamata about the future. Their talk started with Shikura's predictions and went on to take a deeper look at the kinds of communication we might expect in the year 2036. What is a BMI, and what kind of world might it help create? This sparked both of their imaginations.

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Chiyomaru Shikura
Game Creator
Ryota Kawamata
Third Development Department
Work Solutions Development Division
RICOH COMPANY, LTD.
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COMMUNICATION
CHIYOMARU SHIKURA x COMMUNICATION

What? Using your five senses is old-fashioned?!
BMI will be the key to communication in 2036

Sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell—in basic terms, human communication is carried out via the five senses.
Of these, sight may be the most important. What kind of possibilities might we imagine if we could extend the functionality of our sight?
In the digital realm, the evolution of hardware, high-speed networking, and other technologies is bound to far exceed our wildest dreams over the next several decades.
However, we probably won't see any evolution in the bodies of the people using these technologies. Which leads us back to extending our sight capabilities.
That could mean using our brains directly to process the large volumes of information streaming from the digital world.
Actual research in this area is making progress day by day, and lots of different findings have been published.
This kind of exciting technology, which seems like it's straight out of sci-fi, might even be sort of scary,
but the ultra-tiny computers that would enable this reality probably aren't that far off.

* The text on this page has been composed by Ricoh based on interviews with Chiyomaru Shikura.

An earring computer
terminal picking up
brainwaves: a "carrier node"!
To work with thoughts imagined in the brain, one needs to place a specialized device close to the surface of the skull. An electrode called a "carrier node" looks like an earring, riding on top of the ear’s cartilage. By clipping the carrier node to one's ear—much like putting on a pair of earphones—audio and video data can be transmitted directly to the brain as electronic signals.
External device to help in
handling the huge volumes
of data in the brain
A brain-machine interface (BMI) is the technology for directly connecting the digital world with the neural network of the brain. However, the amount of data in the brain is enormous, making it difficult to organize or extract. The carrier node would thus need a separate external device to help in processing. Though perhaps a bit old-fashioned, using a cable to connect these two devices makes the BMI usable and also ensures data security.
Directly connecting to
another's brain via a tabletop router
Imagine a meeting room. Attendees can share data by connecting their BMI external devices to a tabletop router. Wireless could also be an option, but, whatever the case, a real-time connection is a must-have. A wired connection would probably be preferred in business, which requires a secure environment.
Various kinds of
presentations are possible
as BMI users become more
proficient
Younger people will probably get used to brainwave communication quickly, while older people might not adapt so easily. As such, I expect people to also communicate visually and aurally, as well as through brainwave communication. Language could be converted to text as is, so meeting minutes could be taken automatically. Also, language barriers will likely disappear as language input passes through a translation server's filter, helping enable worldwide business development.