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East Japan beach introduces AI system to warn about rip currents, prevent accidents

This image provided by the Japan Lifesaving Association explains the AI system to notify lifesavers and visitors of rip currents and situations concerning bathers.

KAMAKURA, Kanagawa -- A beach in this eastern Japan city has introduced an artificial intelligence (AI) system to warn about rip currents and prevent accidents in the water.

    In Kanagawa Prefecture, beaches opened for the season in the cities of Kamakura, Fujisawa and Zushi and the town of Hayama on July 1.

    The AI system that detects dangerous rip currents and warns beachgoers and lifesavers has been introduced at Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura, which officially opened after a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, a first in the prefecture. Beach huts at Yuigahama are also introducing biodegradable forks and spoons, a first in Japan, and people affiliated with the beach are publicizing it as environmentally friendly and progressive.

    The AI system was jointly developed by the Japan Lifesaving Association and Chuo University. The team collected rip current data for about six months from the winter of 2021. Using data from images taken by a camera, Japan's first system to notify governments of beachgoers' situations in real time when a tsunami occurs was also launched.

    Meanwhile, in a bid to promote a barrier-free beach for people with disabilities, a slope for wheelchairs has been installed so that users can safely access the seashore.

    Motohide Masuda, head of the Yuigahama Beach business association, said, "We're taking a progressive approach that is barrier-free, safe and eco-friendly. We hope people will enjoy a modern Yuigahama."

    (Japanese original by Kenetsu Inaba, Kamakura Local Bureau)

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