Rakuten Technology Conference 2023, brought together tech luminaries, engineers, researchers and enthusiasts from around the world to Rakuten’s Tokyo HQ to explore the future of technology, centered on the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI).
With the theme of “AI-nization,” the event included three simultaneous tracks of speaker sessions, as well as a Kids Park for families, for a total of 19 different sessions over the course of the day. But the conference wasn’t just limited to Tokyo, Rakuten offices in multiple countries hosted their own events, with local sessions and content.
All about AI
For the 15th edition of Rakuten Technology Conference, AI-centric sessions were held on a number of intriguing topics such as “Sustainable Computing in the AI Era” and “Security in the Age of AI,” featuring an impressive speaker list that included Google Cloud Director of Product Management and Customer Activation Erwan Menard, Ampere Computing Chief Evangelist & Vice President of Business Development Sean Varley and more.
Several of the event’s discussions and presentations also delved into the symbiotic relationship between Generative AI and the future of technology, illustrating its potential to revolutionize tech realms such as cloud computing, e-commerce, fintech and mobile tech.
AI innovation in action
The event’s keynote was delivered by Rakuten Group Chairman and CEO Mickey Mikitani, who emphasized AI’s ability to empower society.
“AI is no longer just going to be one of the tools (we use), AI is going to be dead center in our ecosystem, and will be as important, or even more important, than our point ecosystem in the future.”
Sharad Sriwastawa, Co-CEO and CTO of Rakuten Mobile, shared insights on the intersection of mobile technology and AI, including his take on the different ways that artificial intelligence can streamline telco operations and improve customer service.
Joined by with Handelsblatt’s Martin Koelling for a fireside chat on “AI Operations in a Next Generation Network,” Sriwastawa emphasized that AI is only as good as your data. “Our biggest advantage is the uniqueness of our network,” he said. “The ability to combine all this data where data sets can interact with each other is our biggest advantage and it’s crucial for generative AI.”
Another highly anticipated session was “Navigating the challenges of AI” hosted by Rakuten’s Chief Data Officer Ting Cai, who was joined on stage by Google Cloud’s Erwan Menard. During the discourse with Cai, Menard stressed the importance of keeping rapidly evolving AI technologies human-centric and safe.
“We need to do this responsibly,” Menard told the audience – “We need to be mindful of privacy. We need to be mindful of these new frontiers that are being pushed by AI.”
Throughout the day, Rakuten leaders such as Yasufumi Hirai, Akihito Kurozumi and Rohit Dewan also took to the stage to touch on different elements of AI innovation, providing further insights into how Rakuten is leveraging AI technology for the advancement of its businesses and society.
Fostering an environment for future discoveries
Continuing its annual tradition, the conference closed with the announcement of the Rakuten Technology Excellence Awards for 2023, recognizing individuals and organizations which have contributed to innovation in society through advanced technologies. This year, the Rakuten Technology Excellence Award was presented to three parties: LLM-jp, a research development group for large language models (LLM) established in Japan; rinna Co., Ltd., an AI startup working on research and development of Open Domain Conversational Technology; and Asuka Nakajima, who has been researching cyber security for more than 10 years, with her research recognized at Blackhat Briefings, a renowned global security industry conference.
This year’s winners were selected for their achievements, based on the theme of “AI-nization.”
Also continuing its annual tradition, The Kids Park at Rakuten Technology Conference 2023 brought high tech excitement to young minds, offering hands-on experiences with cutting-edge tech. Participants were able to learn about power generation while pedaling on stationary bicycles, fly drones in the “drone flying challenge” area hosted by Rakuten Drone Academy and learn about robotics through a fun and educational showcase hosted by the Rakuten Robot Club.
Offering attendees a full day of insights and activities, Rakuten Technology Conference was, without a doubt, a highlight of tech exploration and constructive conversation for Rakuten in 2023.