OpenAI goes to Tokyo to resolve LLM struggles with Japanese language

Anna Vod · April 29, 2024 · Short URL:

The new office marks OpenAI's first location in Asia

Japan’s tech sector is gaining momentum and catching the eye of U.S. companies and investors. The startup ecosystem in the nation is going through a slew of positive developments, and the government is encouraging new activity. Among other actions, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has been actively welcoming U.S. investment and technology cooperation, and while some players are just starting to look to the land of the rising sun, others have gained a head start. In a recent development, OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, has opened an office in Tokyo and releasing a new custom version of its generative artificial intelligence chatbot optimized for the Japanese language.

OpenAI, backed by Microsoft, stated in a blog its commitment “to collaborating with the Japanese government, local businesses, and research institutions to develop safe AI tools that serve Japan’s unique needs and to unlock new opportunities.” The Tokyo office will mark OpenAI’s first location in Asia, which the company said it chose “for its global leadership in technology, culture of service, and a community that embraces innovation.”

With its custom ChatGPT for Japanese users, OpenAI offers improved performance in translating and summarizing Japanese text, as well as faster turnaround. The company’s new location and optimization bring it closer to business partnerships in Japan; Daikin, Rakuten, and Toyota are some of the big brands using ChatGPT Enterprise to automate processes, analyze data, and optimize internal reporting.  

In addition, OpenAI’s presence in Tokyo allows it to engage with Japan’s policymakers and contribute to solutions for challenges like rural depopulation and labor shortages. The Japanese government has taken a proactive approach to implementing AI initiatives and policies that align with goals related to human dignity, diversity, inclusion, and sustainable societies.

In 2022, OpenAI backed the fast-growing startup Speak, an English-learning app launched in San Francisco and focused on the demand in Southeast Asia, South Korean users in particular. Speak has also been building a presence in other markets around the globe, Japan included. Through its collaboration with OpenAI, Speak is powered by an AI tutor that gives users real-time feedback on pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. Now, OpenAI promises 2.8x faster tutor explanations in Japanese with GPT-4.

Tadao Nagasaki was named the new President of OpenAI Japan. Nagasaki is known for leading Amazon Web Services Japan; at OpenAI, he will head its commercial and market engagement efforts, build the team, and advance go-to-market, communications, and other operations in the country.

In the announcement of its expansion to Japan, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman highlighted AI’s ability to “accelerate work by empowering people to be more creative and productive, while also delivering broad value to current and new industries that have yet to be imagined.”

Japan’s investment in local AI development aims to address the unique linguistic and cultural aspects of the Japanese language. NEC, Fujitsu, and SoftBank earlier began developing local AI systems to resolve the struggles of the Japanese-language models trained on publicly available sources. This year, Japan is expecting the release of an open-source LLM project powered by the supercomputer Fugaku that would feature 30 billion parameters. The country is also developing another LLM specifically for scientific research.


Image: Wowzer AI

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