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HOME > No.27, Nov. 2021 > Ideas and technology drive the creation of new values

Ideas and technology drive the creation of new values

Ryusuke Yabuuchi
Haruka Takahashi
Ryusuke Yabuuchi
Haruka Takahashi

The “Tongali” - Tokai Network for Global Leading Innovators - Project is an entrepreneurship education project launched in 2016 by five national universities* in the Tokai region of Japan. The project aims to revitalize industries through the commercialization of university-developed technologies and ideas by providing various programs to foster and support entrepreneurs for undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students at universities in the Tokai region. Two teams from the Toyohashi University of Technology were awarded prizes in the Tongali Project's Business Plan Contest 2021. We interviewed the leaders of the prize winning teams: Ryusuke Yabuuchi from the Caffet team (winners of the Grand Prize), and Haruka Takahashi from the INHAND team (winners of the Aichi Prefecture Prize). We asked them about their plans and future vision.

Interviews and report by Akiko Seki

* Nagoya University, Toyohashi University of Technology, Nagoya Institute of Technology, Gifu University, and Mie University.

Tongali business plan contest 2021

“Grand Prize” - Caffet

A service that brings together people with the same goal for a friendly chat over a cup of coffee
Ryusuke Yabuuchi
Ryusuke Yabuuchi

Connecting local cafes with students

Because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, students have created fewer connections with each other on university campuses. Yabuuchi himself struggled with this situation - Since transferring from Ube KOSEN (National Institute of Technology) to Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) last year, he could join neither live classes nor any club activities.

"While I was wondering what I could do to create opportunities for students to interact face-to-face, I discovered that Aichi not only had a well established cafe culture but that these same cafes were also struggling with a fall in the number of customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the aging population. That’s when I came up with the idea of connecting local cafes and students seeking to socialize" Yabuuchi said, explaining how it all began. In November last year, Yabuuchi attended Startup Weekend Toyohashi, a startup workshop event held at TUT for the first time. This event led him to decide to make his ideas a reality.

Yabuuchi’s team's business plan is to provide a service via a smartphone app called Caffet. The app allows members to announce and organise social events at member cafes and coffee shops for people with similar interests and goals, and to order drinks and other items at a discount using a common cashless ticket. "It’s a great way to introduce people to new cafes. I hope this app will help support the income of cafes by increasing the number of young customers, and at the same time contribute to the revitalization of local communities.

This service is already available

This service is already in business. Thanks to crowdfunding and support from the industrial support organization Science Create in Toyohashi, the service was launched on June 17, 2021. (

This service is already available

"Rather than use our time weighing up the possibilities, we decided to just go for it. In the contest, I think we were evaluated not only on the content of our plan, but also on our ability to implement it”, said a smiling Yabuuchi. The team plans to use the one million yen Grand Prize activity support fund to promote the app with a view to nationwide expansion.

The Caffet team consists of seven fourth-year undergraduate students. Yabuuchi, Ikumi Fukitani, and Seiki Shibataka from the Department of Mechanical Engineering mainly manage the relationships with cafes and administrative tasks, and Yuushi Kontani, Sota Sonohara, Yusuke Mikami, and Tomoshi Iiyama from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering are in charge of app development.
"Caffet couldn’t have become a reality if it wasn’t for the efforts of the group as a whole. When I created a start-up venture club, it was with the feeling that if I could gather a group of similarly motivated friends, we could create a positive synergy."

Yabuuchi is interested in management as well as his university major. He states, "After graduation, I would like to start a business and create a company with the ethos that everyone can actively contribute by doing what they love." Winning the award is a promising first step realising this dream.

Tongali business plan contest 2021

“Aichi Prefecture Prize” - INHAND

Development of an interactive presentation service that can be controlled via gesture
Haruka Takahashi
Haruka Takahashi
Haruka Takahashi (right) with his colleague

Seeking to solve online challenges

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online classes and seminars have become the new normal. While some appreciate the benefits of online learning, such as greater accessibility for people in remote areas, others find it harder to share content than in face-to-face classes. The latter case was true for Takehiro Izumi, who like Takashashi, was a fourth-year undergraduate student in Professor Shigeru Kuriyama's laboratory.

Takahashi explains how this situation led to them developing the INHAND presentation software, the core of their award winning business plan. "Izumi noticed that he was finding it hard to maintain concentration when faced with a series of slides without experiencing the energy of the speaker. With this in mind, he had already begun developing software to address this issue. When I heard from Professor Kuriyama about the contest, it felt like a great opportunity to see where we could take this idea."

INHAND displays both the speaker and the material on a single screen, and allows the user to zoom in and out, and page through, using hand gestures. It can also display objects in 3D on the screen and move them with hand gestures, or display the speaker's face as a virtual avatar. For a better idea of how the system works, see the video on the website (

"This software is designed to work with a video of the presenter filmed from the knee up, which can easily be achieved by standing at a suitable distance from the built-in camera of a standard laptop computer. By adding this physical component, it is easier for the speaker to deliver content effectively by adding body language or changing the position of the speaker. We augmented this effect by enabling the speaker to control the program with remote hand movements"

Expectations also rise for their dispatch to SXSW

The development team is comprised of five students from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering-Takahashi is the team leader and in charge of virtual camera technology; Tsubasa Wakaiki, a second-year doctoral student who is in the same lab, develops 3D models and virtual avatars; Izumi focuses on hand gesture recognition technology; and Hikaru Sugawara and Sho Iwasawa, fourth-year undergraduate students in a different lab, are responsible for the user interface. The team is now learning how to develop the business potential of the idea through the Tongali project. Currently, they are working on specifications, and are planning to release a beta version of INHAND within the fiscal year.

"The software can be used for a variety of purposes, including education, as it can improve the quality of presentations by showing a combination of documents and actual objects," says Mr Takahashi.

The team will not simply rest on their laurels after winning the Aichi Prefecture Prize. In fact, they have been selected to compete in the Interactive category of South by Southwest's Innovation Awards. South by Southwest (SXSW), one of the world's largest technology startup events, is held every March in Texas, and is known as a gateway to success for technology startup businesses. "The chance of participating in SXSW was part of our original motivation for entering the Aichi contest, so it would be great if the whole team get to go to the event. We certainly expect to grow from the experience of how INHAND is received in the States, as well as what we can learn from other participants.” says a confident Takahashi.

In his studies, Takahashi has been pursuing the development of artificial intelligence to support human creative activities. "Developing INHAND has been a great experience for me, as I have been able to interact and converse with many people, which has also helped me in my AI development. The process of interviews that followed our victory made us realize afresh that there are some things that can only be learned by taking on challenges.


籔内 龍介
髙橋 遼

東海地区の国立5大学* が2016年に立ち上げた起業家育成プロジェクト 「Tongali – Tokai Network for Global Leading Innovators」。東海地区の大学の学部生・大学院生・ポストドクターなどを対象に、起業家を育成・支援するさまざまなプログラムを提供し、大学発の技術やアイデアのビジネス化を通じた産業活性化をめざしている。活動の一環として行っている「Tongali ビジネスプランコンテスト」の2021年大会において、豊橋技術科学大学の2チームが入賞を果たした。最優秀賞に輝いたCaffetチームの代表 籔内龍介さんと、愛知県賞に選ばれたINHANDチームの代表 髙橋遼さんに、プランの内容やこれからのビジョンを聞いた。


Tongali ビジネスプランコンテスト2021

『最優秀賞』 - Caffet

Caffet - カフェで同じ目的の新しい仲間と集まって、コーヒー片手に話せるサービス

籔内 龍介
チーム 「Caffet」代表(機械工学課程4年)



「学生同士が対面で交流する機会を何かつくれないかと考えていたとき、喫茶店文化が根づく愛知県ですら高齢化とコロナ禍の影響でカフェ・喫茶店の利用客が減少していることを知りました。そこで地元のカフェ・喫茶店と、仲間と交流したい若者を結びつけることを思いついたのです」。籔内さんはアイデアが生まれた背景をそう語る。そして、昨年11月に豊橋技術科学大学で初開催されたスタートアップ実践イベント「Startup Weekend 豊橋」に参加したことが契機となり、アイデアを形にしようと決心した。

籔内さんたちのビジネスプランは、スマートフォンアプリ 「Caffet」 を利用したサービスの提供である。このアプリを使えば、加盟するカフェ・喫茶店で同じ趣味や目的を持つ人たちとの交流の場を企画して告知したり、キャッシュレス共通チケットを利用してドリンクなどを割安に注文することもできる。「初めてのお店でも何かきっかけがあれば敷居が下がります。それによって若者の利用者が増えればお店も賑わい、ひいては地域社会の活性化につながるのではないかと期待しています」





「自分一人ではなく仲間がいたからこそCaffetができた。同じように 『何かに挑戦したい』 という仲間が集まればプラスの相乗効果が生まれるのではないかと思い、スタートアップサークルも立ち上げました」

専攻分野だけでなく経営にも興味があるという籔内さん。「卒業後は起業して、誰もが本当に得意なことや好きなことで活躍できる会社や社会をつくりたい」 と話す。今回の受賞はその大きな夢に近づく着実な一歩となった。

Tongali ビジネスプランコンテスト2021

『愛知県賞』 - INHAND


髙橋 遼
チーム 「INHAND」代表(情報・知能工学専攻 博士後期課程1年)




INHANDは、1つの画面に話者の姿と資料を一緒に表示し、ハンドジェスチャーによって拡大・縮小・ページ送りなどの操作を行うことができる。また、画面上に物体を3Dで表示してハンドジェスチャーで動かしたり、話者の顔を仮想アバターで表示したりすることもできる。画面イメージはウェブサイト( の機能説明動画を見るとわかりやすい。



情報・知能工学系の5名が集まった開発チームでは、髙橋さんがリーダーと仮想カメラ技術、同じ研究室で博士前期課程2年生の若生翼さんが3Dモデル・仮想アバター技術、泉さんがハンドジェスチャー認識技術、他の研究室に所属する学部4年生の菅原光さんと岩澤笙さんがユーザーインタフェースを担当している。現在は、Tongaliプロジェクトのプログラムで新規事業立ち上げについて学び、INHAND β版の今年度内リリースをめざして仕様や計画を練っているところだ。


ちなみに、愛知県賞を受賞したチームは、米国テキサス州で毎年3月に開催される世界最大級のテクノロジースタートアップの登竜門、「サウス・バイ・サウスウェスト(SXSW)」 のインタラクティブ部門に派遣されることが決まっている。「もともとSXSWへの派遣があることからコンテストへの参加を決めたので、ぜひチーム全員で行きたい。米国でINHANDがどう評価されるか知り、現地で他の参加者から学ぶことは、必ず自分たちの成長につながるはずです」 と髙橋さんは期待をふくらませる。

髙橋さんは、専攻分野では人間の創作活動を支援するAIの開発をめざしてきた。「INHANDの開発を通じて多くの人と関わり、議論を交わしたことは得がたい経験でした。AI開発の糧にもなりました」 と話す。彼らの取り組みを取材して、挑戦することでしか得られない学びがあることに、あらためて気づかされた。

(取材・文=関 亜希子)

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Researcher Profile

Ryusuke Yabuuchi
Name Ryusuke Yabuuchi
Affiliation Toyohashi University of Technology
Department Undergraduate student (4th grade), Department of Mechanical Engineering
Field of Interests Regional studies/ Tourism studies/ Social psychology
National Institute of Technology, Ube College
Haruka Takahashi
Name Haruka Takahashi
Affiliation Toyohashi University of Technology
Department Doctor course student (1st grade), Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Field of Interests Image processing/ creation support/ Artificial Intelligence
National Institute of Technology, Anan College

Reporter Profile

Madoka Tainaka

Akiko Seki is a freelance writer. She graduated from Department of Applied Biological Science, Faculty of Agriculture at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. She has worked on technical journals for major companies and has served reporting and writing in the field of science and technology.