Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellow Takeshi Kondo reflects on the past year

TakeshiNEWSFEED Takeshi Kondo Rod Searcey

Takeshi Kondo was undergoing training as a new Mitsubishi Electric systems engineer in Kobe, Japan when the massive 7.2-magnitude Great Hanshin earthquake struck in 1995. When Japan was hit by the double disaster of an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011, Kondo was at Stanford University participating in the Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellows Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC). The March tragedy called to mind the 1995 Kobe earthquake and underscored for him the strength of the U.S.-Japan relationship in the face of adversity.

Kondo, currently a manager for the Strategic IT Business Planning Department of Mitsubishi Electric, is a Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellow for the 2010–2011 academic year. During this rigorous and stimulating year, he has conducted research on non-entertainment applications for augmented reality (AR) technology, audited entrepreneurship classes, and participated in site visits to numerous Bay Area companies. He will present his research findings during a public seminar at the end of May before concluding the program and returning to his position at Mitsubishi Electric's corporate headquarters in Tokyo.

A graduate of Waseda University with BS and MS degrees in industrial and management systems engineering, Kondo majored in combinatorial optimization—the analysis of numerous finite possibilities in order to arrive at the most efficient solution to a problem. He has applied his expertise for the past seventeen years at Mitsubishi Electric, a corporation with five major divisions and approximately one hundred thousand employees worldwide, including the United States. Mitsubishi Electric manufactures products ranging from common home appliances like refrigerators to sophisticated electronic devices such as semiconductor lasers. Its Diamond Vision display system graces San Francisco's AT&T Park and Oakland's Oracle Arena.

Prior to taking up his current position at Mitsubishi Electric, Kondo designed systems related to road operations and management, including traffic information and radio communications systems, and he also took part in a joint government and private sector study of a toll collection system similar to FasTrak. The study group made important technology- and policy-related recommendations to the Japanese government when it was preparing to implement the system throughout the country. Kondo is now engaged in finding ways to develop the IT-side of Mitsubishi Electric's business, testing new systems in-house before putting them on the market.

Kondo is excited about the possible manufacturing applications of AR technology, which to date has mostly been utilized in entertainment. A commonly seen use of the technology is with the throw-distance markings that are digitally overlaid on a field during a television football broadcast. When he returns to Mitsubishi Electric this summer, Kondo plans to advocate the use of AR technology and to explore new ways of implementing it with their manufacturing. His Shorenstein APARC research project advisor has been Henry S. Rowen, co-director of the Stanford Program on Regions of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and a specialist on high-tech industries in the United States and Asia. "He is brilliant," emphasizes Kondo.

During his year with the Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellows Program, Kondo has audited several entrepreneurship classes in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, noting the profusion of such classes at Stanford University. It has led him to develop an interest in the Bay Area venture capital firms that the Fellows have visited, his first encounters with businesses of this kind. The group has also toured a number of high-tech companies, of which Cisco Systems holds a special attraction for Kondo because of his interest in AR technology.

Of all of his experiences this past year, Kondo has perhaps been most struck by the overwhelming U.S. response to Japan's recovery efforts after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. "It has been very confusing," he says, "but the American people have shown support for us." Japan too demonstrated its friendship when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005—an unprecedented disaster in U.S. history. The Japanese government and private citizens sent significant funds and supplies for relief efforts.

When Kondo returns to Japan in June, he will take with him not only the academic and business expertise that he has gained while participating in the Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellows Program but also the memory of the friendship that he has experienced. Building strong ties between the United States and Asia is a core component of Shorenstein APARC's mission. Kondo will join the Corporate Affiliates Visiting Fellows Program's ever-growing alumni network, connecting him to colleagues throughout Asia and to Shorenstein APARC and Stanford scholars for many years to come.