This makes OpenAI the latest tech company to invest in Japan since the country’s prime minister visited the US last week amid strengthening ties between the nations.

OpenAI has opened its first Asian office in Tokyo, Japan and release a new GPT-4 customer model optimised for the Japanese language.

In an announcement yesterday (14 April), the San Francisco AI start-up said that Tadao Nagasaki, former president of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Japan, will be the new president of OpenAI Japan and lead its commercial and market efforts in the country.

Nagasaki will be responsible for helping OpenAI build a local team in Japan that will advance global affairs, go-to-market, communications, operations and other activities.

“We’re excited to be in Japan which has a rich history of people and technology coming together to do more,” said CEO Sam Altman. “We believe AI will accelerate work by empowering people to be more creative and productive, while also delivering broad value to current and new industries that have yet to be imagined.”

OpenAI is the latest of a host of US tech companies to kindle and strengthen ties with Japan since the country’s prime minister was on a state visit to the US last week.

The start-up currently leading the global AI race said it will collaborate with the Japanese government, local businesses and research institutions to develop “safe AI tools” that serve Japan’s “unique needs and to unlock new opportunities”.

“We chose Tokyo as our first Asian office for its global leadership in technology, culture of service, and a community that embraces innovation,” OpenAI wrote.

Last week, Microsoft said it will pump nearly $2.9bn into Japan over the next two years to increase its AI and cloud infrastructure and invest in the digital skills of its population. Google also announced a $1bn investment in expanding digital connectivity between the US and Japan, which includes the creation of two new subsea cables.

With OpenAI’s latest investment into Japan, the company will provide local businesses with early access to a GPT-4 custom model specifically optimised for the Japanese language, which it claims offers improved performance in translating and summarising Japanese text.

OpenAI said the “cost-effective” model operates up to three times faster than its predecessor. It plans to release the custom model more broadly in the API (application programming interface) in the coming months.

“The Japanese government chaired the G7 Hiroshima AI Process and worked to implement AI policies that align with its goals for human dignity, diversity and inclusion, and sustainable societies, while helping Japan realise solutions to its rural depopulation and labour shortage,” OpenAI wrote. “We look forward to contributing to the local ecosystem, while exploring how AI can help with these societal challenges in the region.”

Last September, Dublin became the third city to have an OpenAI office after its headquarters in San Francisco and a London office announced in June – its first corporate office outside the US. The company is still hiring for roles based in the city.

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