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The Real Reason Japan Can’t Innovate & What to Do About It – Xenoma

By Tim Romero: Serial startup founder in Japan and indomitable innovator

From the transistor radio to the Walkman to the Gameboy and the Playstation, Japan has always been both a leading force in hardware technology and a Mecca for gadget geeks. Over the past ten years, however, Japanese dominance in consumer hardware has been slipping away. The falling price of not just computing, but of manufacturing and prototyping has resulted in some amazing connected devices appearing all over the world. But while Japan’s large corporations have been falling behind, Japan’s startups have been rushing ahead. Today we sit down with Ichiro Amimori of Xenoma to talk about why he left a successful 20-year career in materials science at FujiFilm to found a company that makes a low-cost, washable motion capture shirt they call e-skin. It’s a order of magnitude cheaper than existing technology and opens up the possibility of applications in gaming, sports technology and heath and medicine. We also talk about the challenges Japanese enterprises and universities have turning fundamental research into salable products, and a few trends that might just turn that situation around. It’s a great interview and I think you’ll enjoy it. Show Notes for Startups What is e-skin and why is it important? Why leave a 20-year career to start a risky startup How FujiFilm managed to innovate and survive How to attract developers to a new hardware platform Why most early adopters are outside Japan How Japan lost it's lead in the gaming industry How motion capture can help the elderly Why Japanese companies have trouble in new markets The future of open innovation in Japan Links from the Founder Everything you ever wanted to know about Xenoma A deeper dive on e-skin Ichiro's personal blog (in Japanese) Follow Ichiro on twitter @ichiroamimori Friend him on Facebook [shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="7994466"] Leave a comment Transcript from Japan Welcome to Disrupting Japan- straight talk from Japan’s most successful entrepreneurs. I’m Tim Romero, and thanks for joining me. You know, Japan has always been the land of cool hardware, from the Zoom recorder I’m talking into to the Gameboy, to the Play Station, to the Walkman, to the transistor radio. Japan has always been a mecca to gadget geeks. Of course, things have changed in recent years, the falling price of not just computing, but of manufacturing and prototyping has resulted in some amazing connected devices appearing all over the world. And Japan, if we’re being honest with ourselves here, is falling a bit behind. Ichiro Amimori is a small part of the solution to this. He left a 20-year career in material science to found a company that produces what they call e-skin. It’s a tight fitting shirt that can sense the movements of its wearer and act as an inexpensive, accurate, motion capture device. It’s price and durability is something you might find a little bit surprising. Of course, with a cool hardware available now, attracting developers to your new platform, no matter how cool, is something of a challenge these days. Even Google is having problems in this area. Ichiro and I dive into some detail about how Xenoma is solving this. We also talk about the challenges that Japanese enterprises and universities have turning fundamental research into real products. And the steps that they’re taking to solve them. But you know, Ichiro tells that story much better than I can, so let’s hear from our sponsors and get right to the interview.     [pro_ad_display_adzone id="1404"  info_text="Sponsored by"  font_color="grey" ] [Interview] Tim: I’m sitting here with Ichiro Amimori of Xenoma. You guys make e-skin. It’s like clothing, it’s motion capture, it’s just a shirt, really, but thanks for sitting down with us. Ichiro: Nice meeting you. Tim: Tell us more about what Xenoma is, and what this shirt really does. Ichiro: So we are a startup company from the University of Tokyo,

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