Funding will enable international expansion to Singapore, scalable manufacturing, and product development for new markets


tonari, a social venture building life-sized connected spaces, announced today that it has closed a ¥450 million Pre-Series A funding led by Real Tech Fund and One Capital. The funds will be used to scale hardware production and deliveries in Japan, develop new products and services, and expand operations to Singapore as a testbed for further international expansion.

tonari at Frontier Consulting Osaka ⇄ Tokyo

tonari at Frontier Consulting Osaka ⇄ Tokyo

Challenges in the workplace

As the pandemic winds down, companies around the world continue to explore new ways of working. A survey in the U.S. revealed that nearly 70% of workers said they would consider changing jobs if they were forced to work in an office after primarily working remotely.

Meanwhile, as reported in a survey from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, by August 2021 more than 50% of companies had introduced remote work; proving that even in Japan, which historically supported very little remote work, the pandemic forced a response towards more diverse and flexible work styles. A November 2020 “Survey on Work Styles” also found that a combination of remote and in-person work had a more positive overall effect on employees' attitudes toward the workplace than remote work alone.

Additionally, in Japan nearly 50% of working women leave the workforce after the birth of their first child, due to the difficulty of balancing childcare and work. This is a significant socioeconomic issue as Japan struggles with a rapidly aging society and low birth rates. With the revision of the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law coming into effect this year, there is an urgent need to create a workplace environment that allows men and women to balance childcare and work on an equal footing.

How can companies create an office that fosters teamwork and culture, helps employees achieve their personal work-life balance, and be friendlier to families and the environment? tonari is working with companies to reinvent the office for a new era of hybrid work that is both flexible and face-to-face.


Introducing tonari

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky recently proclaimed, “The office as we know it is over.” Rather than forcing people to commute, the office of the future needs to better serve the people working there, and provide a unique environment that cannot be created through remote work at home.

tonari is a communication tool based on a completely new concept that connects two spaces via true life-scale video. The other side of the tonari screen is not just a window, but a space with depth, enabling a sense of unity and realism that transcends distance, and makes people feel as if they are actually together in one place.

Shinji Ineda, an executive officer at Frontier Consulting who introduced tonari, says: “We can operate our dispersed business sites as if they were in one space,” making it possible to work face-to-face with teams at multiple locations without traveling.

Furthermore, unlike web meetings and video calls, tonari’s experience of connected spaces is an ideal way for employees to connect casually, align motivations, and share a common purpose; and improve relationships and productivity among distributed teams.

tonari spaces are designed specifically to each team and environment

tonari spaces are designed specifically to each team and environment

Business development

After a first pilot in 2019, tonari launched its first commercial product in late 2020, which is currently used by five companies in Japan: JR East, ITOCHU Techno-Solutions (CTC / DEJIMA), Okamura, Sompo Japan, and Frontier Consulting. These companies are using tonari to enable seamless communication between their locations, and to create business opportunities through new ways of working.

<aside> 💫 Explore case studies:


Unique hardware and software

The tonari system consists of both hardware and software. A tiny high-resolution camera is embedded in the center of the screen, allowing people to naturally see eye-to-eye and face-to-face. The system allows users to communicate with a life-size person projected on a large ceiling-to-floor screen, with the same sense of presence as if they were together in-person. With glass-to-glass latency of around 100 milliseconds, the system provides a sense of natural fidelity and oneness as if people are in the same space.