Mission, Technology and Business
Communication abilities of dolphins - Dolphins have an interesting characteristic; in their heads, they have an organ consisting of fat, known as a melon, which allows them to control sound waves to scan for objects and communicate with their mates. To use a technological analogy, each individual naturally has a built-in three-dimensional sonar and a smartphone. Humans, on the other hand, do not have these functions built in. Instead, humans carry smartphones as external devices and radiate radio waves to realize the same level of communication as dolphins do in the water.
In the future, humans will use highly informatized glasses and earphones to receive visual and auditory information. Ultimately, we will be able to receive information at any spatial point even without wearing such devices. For example, sound will be delivered to our eardrums or images will be projected onto our retinas only in flash or selected situations. When these technologies have matured, we have become creatures capable of network communication, just like dolphins.
We at Pixie Dust Technologies, Inc. have been working to remove the barriers of what we cannot do and to expand what we can do through our proprietary wave control technology (we take pride that we have the world's top-class technology for aerial ultrasound). In other words, by using technology to expand our physical capabilities, such as applying the dolphin-like ability, we are focusing on contributing to the improvement of people's QOL.
All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.
The name of Pixie Dust Technologies Inc. comes from Pixie Dust, a three-dimensional acoustic levitation technology presented by Dr. Ochiai (currently CEO) and Dr. Hoshi (currently CRO) in 2014 before the company was founded. Thus far, the technology has come to the point where an object can be floated in two dimensions using ultrasonic wave, and our Pixie Dust is the first in the world to enable the three-dimensional movement.
Our technology platform
We call a set of theories, technologies, and know-how for well manipulating waves such as sound and light "Wave Control Technology". Wave control technology can be broadly classified into three categories.
The first is "output", where an object or the human body can be affected when a device is sending out waves. For example, sound and light can have an impact on the human body to obtain medical and health care effects.
The second is "input", where we can achieve the sensing of an object or environment, which is made possible when a device receives waves. For example, it can assist human cognitive functions or evaluate the surrounding environment.
The third is "processing", where we alter the waves that propagate through space. For example, we can artificially design a material that absorbs sound of a certain frequency band.
Beyond Display technology removes the barriers of "what you can't do" and expands "what you can do.
Until now, information technology has been something interactive with humans through display screens after information is mainly processed in computers. However, with our wave control technology, the information loaded in the computer can overflow into the real world, easily interact with and control the real world. With the emergence of such a new method, we will be able to confront social issues that we have not been able to solve in the past. We are a company founded with the desire to continuously solve social problems using wave control technology. There is a line in Peter Pan that says, "All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust." We enrich the world by using wave control technology (pixie dust) that utilizes physical phenomena that we cannot recognize, other than our own internal (faith) and external (trust) that we can recognize. It could be a technology that would give people abilities like acoustic sonar of dolphins, or a computer system that would grasp and optimize spatial information by developing wireless communication.
Below are some specific examples of our business. We have a wide range of businesses, but they all arise and develop naturally from wave control technology. Some people say “It doesn't work for a small-scale company to develop a diverse business portfolio. Instead, it would be better to focus on a single business.” However, we are convinced of the advantages of having a portfolio, and we are striving to make our business a success story.
Among these businesses, ever since we started our business, we have been believing that we can remove the barriers of "what we can't do" and expand "what we can do" through our proprietary wave control technology, as shown in the example of the dolphin mentioned at the beginning of this article. In other words, we believe that wave control technology can help solve social issues. Therefore, we strongly hope to contribute to the realization of a "Leave No One Behind" society in the area of healthcare and diversity so that we can solve social issues through wave control technology, which is our main target.
Applied technology 1: Ultrasound facilitates healing of wound
One of the most interesting applications of our wave control technology on the part of “output” is the speed-up of wound healing. This is joint research with Nippon Medical School. Experiments using mice suggest that the time required for wounds to heal can be reduced by about half when non-contact vibratory pressure stimulation is applied to the skin surface by irradiation of airborne ultrasound. When we closely observe the wounds, it shows that they heal through the process of accelerated angiogenesis after which epithelialization is observed. The study to observe the response of cells and tissues to mechanical stimulation is called "mechanobiology," and the treatment that utilizes this mechanism is called "mechanotherapy.” Usually when this mechanotherapy is used, pressure or vibration is applied by directly touching on the living tissue with some kind of instrument. Since this method involves direct contact with the living tissue, there is a risk of infection so great care must be taken. On the other hand, with regard to non-contact wound healing acceleration using ultrasound, there is the great advantage of avoiding the risk of infection since there is no need to directly touch on the living tissue.
The encounter with the phenomenon of hair growth promotion
We have accidentally discovered one phenomenon during the experiment with these mice. The wound irradiated with ultrasound did indeed heal faster, but at the same time, we observed that hair grew thickly around the wound.
In addition to the macroscopic observation that hair growth is promoted on the back of mice, we have also gone thorough microscopic observations. It has been confirmed that with non-contact vibration pressure stimulation hair growth-related genes significantly express. It has also been observed that the gene expression pattern is similar to that of minoxidil, which is used as a hair regrowth agent. The details of this phenomenon were reported at the World Congress Hair Research 2019  and won the best oral presentation award.
 H. Takada, Y. Osada, T. Hama, T. Koyama, K. Kobayashi, and R. Ogawa: Does hair follicular KATP channel gating by minoxidil- and/or mechano-stimulation contribute to hair growth in vivo?, 11th World Congress Hair Research, 24-27 Apr. 2019.
Hair Growth Breakthrough
In addition to medication and hair transplantation, hair researchers in Japan and around the world are exploring new hair regrowth treatments such as pluripotent stem cell-based hair regeneration, LED and low-power laser radiation. According to a survey report in 2004, the AGA population in Japan is 12.6 million, of which 6.5 million have had some form of care or treatment, and this many people in Japan alone are in need of innovative hair regrowth technologies.
For AGA treatment in Japan, minoxidil is used as a topical drug with hair regrowth effect. However, hair regrowth treatment requires a certain amount of time (about 4-6 months) from the start of treatment until the effect is felt, and treatment is not effective when AGA progresses to the late stage. In addition, although no serious side effects have been reported for minoxidil, side effects such as itching, dizziness, headache, palpitations, and decrease in blood pressure may be observed.
Applied technology 2: Responding to a super-aging society
Proprietary wave control technology against dementia
Our wave control technology is not limited to vibrating the skin surface using ultrasound as described above. As another "output" project, we are exploring the possibility of non-drug therapy for dementia, realized by intervening through the five senses.
Applied Technology 3: Future glasses that can “see” where you are being called from and what they are talking about.
So far, we have introduced technologies that "output" light and sound, but here we would like to introduce "input", which is the opposite direction, namely sensing technologies and businesses based thereon. That is the smart glasses which can “display” the location of the speakers and what they are talking about.
It is estimated that there are 14.3 million deaf and hard of hearing people in Japan. However, 85% of these people do not have hearing aids, which means that they have difficulty in their daily lives and feel isolated from their surroundings. The reason why they do not use hearing aids can be explained by the psychological barriers surrounding the design, such as the discomfort or embarrassment with wearing hearing aids. There are also issues with the function of hearing aids, some examples of which are noise is drowning the voice out; it is hard to distinguish the voices of multiple people; and it is not possible to tell the direction of the person who is speaking.
In order to solve the problems of "it is hard to distinguish between the voices of multiple people" and "it is not possible to tell the direction of the person who is speaking," we are developing a function to detect the direction where the voice comes from and display that direction on smart glasses by applying our proprietary wave control technology of "input.” Since the position of the speaker is retained once it is recognized, the system can display subtitles in different colors for each speaker, superimpose subtitles to the direction of the speakers who are in the visible territory, and display a message if anyone from outside of such territory starts speaking so that the user can turn around to that direction to see the subtitles that appears in the same direction. We have incorporated some functions that deaf and hard of hearing people may seek so that we can support their communication.
Currently, we are developing this product aiming at commercialization in 2023.
In addition, people have difficulty hearing sounds and words as they age. In order to cope with such age-related hearing impairment, it is necessary to develop a product with functional usability suitable for older adults. There are many unilaterally deaf and hard of hearing people, and it is possible to develop a product with functional usability suitable for unilateral hearing impairment.
In this way, we are seeking to develop a product and expand business using the "input" of wave control technology, i.e., sensing technology, thinking out of the box, without being constrained by smart glasses.
Applied Technology 4: In stillness, the sound of cicadas sinks deep into the rocky cliffs.
So far, we have introduced the "input" and "output" of wave control technology, but here we would like to introduce another technology that "processes" waves propagating in space. It is a metamaterial technology that creates materials that do not exist in the natural world through structural design.
In general, a metamaterial is "an artificially created material with properties not found in nature.” For example, electromagnetic metamaterials with a negative refractive index are famous as the first instance. Since this was realized by a structure smaller than the wavelength of electromagnetic waves, the term "metamaterial" was coined to refer to "a material whose properties are given by a microstructure."
Our technology is a kind of acoustic metamaterial that allows us to freely design sound absorption performance. We liken this technology to the haiku of Matsuo Basho (1644 - 1694), one of Japan's greatest haiku poets (Shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe ("閑さや岩にしみ入る蝉の声")/In stillness, the sound of cicadas sinks deep into the rocky cliffs.), and we call it "iwasemi" (iwa ("岩") means "rock" and semi ("蝉") means "cicadas").
Even though electromagnetic waves and sound waves are different physical phenomena, they can commonly be treated as abstract expressions such as signal analysis and wave equations, and our wave control technology is characterized by its broad applicability where the knowledge we have gained in electromagnetic waves can also be applied to the handling of sound waves and vice versa.
Although sound absorption using acoustic metamaterials is not unprecedented, our "iwasemi" has been further refined. It can absorb effectively over a wide frequency range, including hundreds of Hz which glass wool cannot sufficiently absorb, or it can specifically absorb sound in a certain frequency range. We are making a design asset that can modify iwasemi’s characteristics to the purpose of application. The highlight is, because iwasemi achieves its sound absorption performance through the internal structure of the material, we can get it through any material, including plastic, metal, and glass.
Applied technology 5: Locating people and objects
The "iwasemi" introduced above can somehow embody the feature of our wave control technology where the knowledge obtained through the study of electromagnetic waves can also be applied to the handling of sound waves. On the other hand, we would like to introduce "hackke" ("八卦"), a positioning technology, as an example of applying the knowledge gained from sound waves to the handling of electromagnetic waves. Although this is discounted from the healthcare field, it is a project that demonstrates how far our wave control technology can go.
In the smart glasses introduced above, the direction of sound arrival is obtained by analyzing the waveform of the voice signal received by the microphone, which then makes it possible to identify the direction of the speaker. Similarly, the direction of sound arrival can be recognized by analyzing the waveform of electromagnetic signals. The microphone and the speaker are called a locator and a tag, respectively here. By installing multiple locators on the ceiling of a room, it is possible to figure out the three-dimensional position information tags have. In other words, it is a device that enables indoor positioning using the "input" of our wave control technology.
Indoor positioning technology is a technology that enables positioning of the current location even in places where GPS (Global Positioning System) signals cannot reach, such as indoors, i.e., in stores, factories, offices, and underground. By locating the position of people and object and tracking their movements indoors, it is possible to provide value in many ways. This technology, which we have been developing since 2020, makes it possible to visualize the movement of workers and cargo, and to obtain the information necessary for studying efficiency improvements.
Conventional positioning technology has a tradeoff between cost and accuracy. In other words, a high-accuracy device with a positioning error of about 1 m is expensive, and a low-cost device is low accuracy with a positioning error of about 10 m. In contrast, we believe that our positioning technology has an advantage in that it can achieve relatively high accuracy at a low cost.
Applied technology 6: COVID-19 countermeasures
Since the end of 2019, we have been forced to deal with COVID-19. In this regard, since the beginning of 2020, we have started to develop technology based on wave control technology to cope with this unprecedented situation. It is a dual approach that enables us to do the evaluation from both human and space sides. We have named it “magickiri” and make subprojects called “monitoring” for human evaluation and “planning” for spatial evaluation.
The first is magickiri monitoring, which falls under human assessment. This is a system that uses electromagnetic waves to detect close contact between people (e.g., within a distance of 1 meter), mainly as a response to droplet infection. Each person carries a card-sized tag, and you can visualize the distance between each tag on the administrator’s dashboard. There is an application software called COCOA which can deliver the notification in case of close contact, which is implemented by the Japanese government. In COCOA, a patient who is found to be infected with a new coronavirus through a test can enter the number given to him/her after the test using his/her own app, and the app will send notifications to people with whom he/she may have had close contact before the test. Since this is the system that covers the entire population, they decided to excessively focus to hold anonymity. As a result, the notifications were sent only after the fact, which only shows the information stating you had a close contact on DD/MM while it was not clear what time and with whom the close contact had occurred. So, this did not play a big role in responses to COVID19 in terms of corporate BPR. In contrast, magickiri monitoring is a technology that is beneficial for enterprises. The administrator can monitor close contact between employees real-time, which allows the company to adjust attendance at work or review indoor environment if the occurrence of close contact is detected. Should a new case be found at office, the information provided by magickiri monitoring can support you to minimize the scope of work suspension considering the status of close contact.
Next is magickiri planning, which covers space assessment. This is a service that identifies indoor areas where the possibility with infection is high and proposes countermeasures, mainly to deal with airborne infection routes. This service is based on the simulation technology and know-how used in the design of "iwasemi." When a person infected with COVID19 is present in an indoor area along with other people, magickiri will simulate the concentration of the breath that such person infected with COVID19 has exhaled. The possibility whether or not to have been infected is determined by comparing the outcome obtained by the above simulation with the infection threshold derived by Dr. Muto of Kitasato University based on past infection cases. In addition, we will comprehensively explore how the infection potential will change when installing air blowers and partitions indoors and make suggestions for improvement.
Application Technology 7: Measurement of Three-Dimensional Temperature and Airflow Distributions
In the field of space evaluation, we are working on another project, which is the Air Mount Sensor, the world's first ultrasonic sensing technology that measures three-dimensional temperature and airflow distributions indoors by transmitting and receiving ultrasonic waves.
You may or may not be aware that conventional air conditioning equipment does not accurately measure the temperature of surrounding air. In fact, an ordinary thermometer can only measure the temperature at the point where it is located, and a thermal camera, which is supposed to be able to measure the temperature at a distance, can actually only measure the temperature on the surface of an object.
In contrast, the Air Mount Sensor can acquire the temperature distribution in a space, which can provide useful information for optimal control of air-conditioning and temperature management of cargo transportation.
According to the report prepared by ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), as much as 30% of energy is wasted in air-conditioning due to lack of information about temperature distribution. Therefore, the Air Mount Sensor is a technology that contributes to carbon neutrality as it can avoid excessive energy use and loss in air-conditioning.
Ultrasound travels through the air at the speed of sound (about 340 m/s), but to be precise the measurement outcome shows that the speed of sound increases by 0.6 m/s for every 1 degree increase in temperature. In addition, the speed of air flow also affects the speed of sound. The data in which such local effect is added up will be available after ultrasonic waves are transmitted and received, which can be used as the base to evaluate an overall effect over the propagation route. This is not sufficient to come up with three-dimensional distribution, however, through the measurement of multiple propagation paths combined with wave propagation analysis and simulations, it is possible to obtain a three-dimensional distribution.
Platform for bundling sensor information
As described above, wave control technology can be used for spatial sensing. In order to achieve this, a platform is required that has; a database function to appropriately aggregate data continuously sent from a large number of sensors, locators, and tags; a component to process the data as needed; and a dashboard editing function for the purpose of visualization.
We have also developed such a platform, which we call KOTOWARI. KOTOWARI is not only about the sensors we develop, but also about assisting onsite DX by connecting commercially available surveillance cameras in the construction, agriculture, and other industries, and developing COVID19 countermeasures based on the actual outcome of the measurement obtained as a result of connecting commercially available CO2 sensors.
[ KOTOWARI's architecture ]
[ Applications of KOTOWARI ]
* Application Name : KOTOWARI V360
Until here, we explained our wave control technology and clarified even though our businesses may seem disparate and unrelated, they were actually achieved as a result of expansion of our wave control technology. We consider healthcare and diversity as our core business areas. Also, we have introduced our spatial sensing technologies and the platform that is to combine technologies together.
Future Development Goals
There is the possibility we can create innovative metamaterials that are thin, light, and transparent, and that have not emerged since the dawn of history, by combining aerogel with our acoustic metamaterial technology.
Here, we have an estimation.
It has been found that the weight of sound-absorbing materials commonly used in automobiles is approximately 1% to 4% of the total vehicle weight. The global greenhouse gas emissions from land transportation totals to 49.4 billion tons, 11.9% of which are emitted by automobiles. Since the energy efficiency of cars depends on their mass, it is safe to say that cars are emitting greenhouse gases of 170 to 240 million tons to carry sound absorbing materials. If the mass of such sound-absorbing materials can be reduced to 50%, it is considered that we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by half from the aforementioned 170 to 240 million tons. A reduction of 120 million tons is equivalent to 10% of Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
We are highly motivated to create this revolutionary aerogel metamaterial. If we get to create this aerogel metamaterial and make it available to the world at a reasonable price, we believe that our product will be the first choice for the entire manufacturing industry that uses sound deadening materials. At the very least, we believe that this is a feasible possibility.
We are not sure if such time will actually come, but we do have an ambitious goal.
SOUND HUG allows deaf and hard of hearing people to "feel the sound"
We have developed the SOUND HUG hoping that deaf and hard of hearing people will enjoy music. When you hold it in your arms as shown in the image, the SOUNDHUG lights up and vibrates to the tune of the music. This image is a piece of photos taken at the "Sound-free concert" held by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
With an increasing number of cancellation of events due to COVID-19, the revenue we obtain from SOUND HUG is only a few tens of thousands of dollars per year, and our contribution to the revenue is still very small, but the SOUND HUG business alone is not in deficit, and we believe that we can grow our revenue in the future.
We will continue to expand the business of SOUND HUG throughout the world to make people happily smile as seen in this image.
Whatever it takes to make our business align with SDGs.
We are confident that our business is compatible with the SDGs by itself. For a small-scale company like us, it is impossible to ensure the continuity of our business if we were to engage in SDGs-related activities on a voluntary basis. We believe that it is important for the business itself to be in line with the context of the SDGs in order to fully understand the importance of establishing a going concern as a private company which then allows us to continue with the business in a way that meets the expectations of our many investors.
As we have mentioned in the above, our wave control technology is a system of technology with which we can handle audible sound, ultrasonic waves, visible light, and electromagnetic waves without distinction. With this technology, we can affect the target through output of waves, know the target by way of wave sensing, or alter the waves themselves as desired by processing techniques. Depending on the type of wave being handled (e.g., smart glasses for sound, hackke for electromagnetic waves, etc., for the same purpose of estimating the direction of arrival), the effect can be different. We will strive to offer a variety of innovative products, materials and services based on wave control technology going forward, so you cannot miss out.
Our never-ending desire to create new products that are not on the market thus far using our proprietary wave control technology will continuously allow us to deliver something that can remove the barriers of "what you cannot do” and expand “what you can do”, and we will endlessly strive to offer innovative products in the foreseeable future.