Fujitsu and Lenovo unveil face-reading AI for homes

Fujitsu and Lenovo Group have developed a device that reads facial expressions and tracks movements using artificial intelligence, the Asian technology companies said Wednesday, as part of a push into new data analysis services amid a shrinking PC market.

The prototype can parse video data to read the emotions of elementary schoolers, helping educators keep tabs on how the students are feeling. The device also can track the movements of elderly people at home, alerting guardians or caregivers if needed. Fujitsu Client Computing, the joint venture between the Japanese and Chinese personal computer veterans, aims to commercialize the product in two to three years.

Speedy processing serves as the main selling point. Rather than uploading video and processing it in the cloud before returning results to users, the video is examined directly at the usage site. This decentralized method of handling data is known as “edge computing.”

“We aim to accelerate initiatives that cross edge computing with AI,” Fujitsu Client Computing President Kuniaki Saito said at an event Wednesday in Tokyo to highlight the device.

The new AI and tracking product will serve as part of the company’s effort to extend systems originally intended for factories into homes and other sites.

Fujitsu’s onetime lifeblood personal computing business has waned as smartphones and tablets spread. Japan’s annual PC shipments have shrunk to about 10 million, MM Research Institute says, from roughly 15.27 million in 2010.

The struggle fueled Fujitsu’s decision to merge its PC business with Lenovo’s last year. The Hong Kong-listed company, a major player on the global stage, has become a force in the Japanese market as well through its joint venture with Fujitsu and another with NEC.

But demand looks to grow even tighter, and Toshiba — which has struggled to recover from a series of scandals and missteps — appears likely to sell off its operations in the field as well. Fujitsu is working to become less dependent on computer sales, but in the future intends to give consumers more reason to use them through offerings such as data analysis devices and AI services.

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