Thirty-year history of TRON Project

Thirty years of TRON Project

To create the future

Information science that grew rapidly along with the development of computers, was emphasized as undergraduate education, and became an established genre and courses were established in the 1960s. However, just before the start of twenty-first century, information-related departments were reviewed and reorganized at the University of Tokyo in 2000. During the process, Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies (IIIS), Graduate School, The University of Tokyo―a new organization of integrated arts and sciences based on the idea that information affects and links all fields was established.

At the start of the IIIS, I transferred there, and established and became responsible for “Applied Computer Science Course” specializing in the research on ubiquitous computing in 2005.

Government-run universities became independent corporations, so budget for new research was no longer provided automatically. We conducted research in a makeshift building for a long time. When I talked with Takeo Higuchi, Chairman of Daiwa House Industry about the importance and current status of ubiquitous computing research in 2010, he offered support to improve our research environment. I was very grateful for that. “Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building” was built and completed in May 2014.

The architectural design was done by Kengo Kuma, professor in Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Tokyo. I acted as the producer of the whole building, and made the building available as an experimental environment for the latest ubiquitous computing technologies. All the equipment is networked, and control according to the position of people with smartphone, etc. is possible. The sensors are placed in many places, so we can learn the status of the building and its surrounding environment. Students can use this building as educational material and can develop their free running thinking into concrete ideas.

TRON Project marked its 30th anniversary in 2014. The past 30 years were tumultuous times in Japan. Japan caught up with and passed the United States, reached the peak of economic growth and was said “Japan as Number One” I the early 1980s. However, as the country grew mature, Japan experienced social stagnation, and Japan is now facing a drastic aging society with a low birth rate.

Needless to say, young people need to break the status quo by further innovation. They can do this so much more easily than before. If you have an idea for a new ICT service, you can create a smartphone app and distribute it to the world easily. Environmental control can be carried out by using an app in an environment such as Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building. Programming knowledge is essential to take advantage of the new age with many opportunities, however.

Currently, some Western countries are trying to introduce programming education into early level compulsory education, not because they want to increase the number of professional programmers, but because they know that programming skill can help children in the future in the same manner as “reading, writing and arithmetic” no matter what career children will pursue. The mature level “reading, writing and arithmetic” education of all the people in Japan was a great advantage for a country that lacked many natural resources. However, regarding programming education, Japan is far behind others. When ubiquitous computing environment, the goal of TRON Project, is realized, programming knowledge of the general public will be the key to make best use of it. TRON Project is planning to promote this education efforts now.