Nissan Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle: All-electric car for barbecues with karaoke, drone

Written by: William on March 9, 2015 at 9:02 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 5 Comments

Every year there are some pretty outlandish concept cars, mostly designed to generate headlines and buzz.

But forget robots and bizarre shapes. Nissan have gone for a more practical, family-oriented approach. The Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle, showcased recently at the Japan Campign Car Show at Makuhari Messe Convention Center, Chiba, has been developed with the Japan BBQ Association.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

It promises “everything you need for a barbecue in an effectless waste-efficient electric-powered unit”.

It includes a 1,500W grill, shower, karaoke machine, mist shower to cool you down… and even a drone to document the whole experience.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

Camping in Japan in the summer can be a recipe for disaster because of the high density of mosquitos. Not so with the BBQ Car: it has a “mosquito barrier system”, which repells mosquitos with ultrasonic waves and insect repellent aromas!

You can even take snaps of your family excursion with the “flying selfie camera”.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

Finally, a smartphone-linked display system means the car window can become a screen.

We love the straight-faced narration that sounds more like a bad audition for a movie trailer (“Quick Electric Grill!”) than a light-hearted concept car video.

The Ultimate Smart BBQ Vehicle is adapted from the e-NV200 and is all-electric, as we’d expect from the car maker that is leading the world EV development.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

The BBQ Vehicle is concerned about the environment not only in terms of its power source. It wants to make sure you don’t leave any garbage behind when you go home, so it includes a disposer.

ultimate smart bbq vehicle nissan barbecue car electric drone karaoke eco

The BBQ Vehicle is not available as a car yet, though there is a funding page for it over at Green Funding Lab if you fancy investing in the future of automotive transport for family outings.

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Nissan Dayz “Flash Dress-Up” Dayz ad transforms women into Cinderella

Written by: William on December 29, 2014 at 9:53 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Touch a Nissan car and you transform into Cinderella. Huh? Well, that’s if you believe everything you see on your screen.

nissan flash dress-up ad dayz cinderella

Nissan has created a new ad for its Dayz model. It shows a series of women touching the red-colored vehicle and then instantly changing into fancy costumes. The women are shown being transformed into Cinderella on the streets and in the Nissan showroom in Yokohama, filmed like a flash mob to capture the reactions of the bystanders.

nissan flash dress-up ad dayz cinderella

nissan flash dress-up ad dayz cinderella

nissan flash dress-up ad dayz cinderella

Apparently it’s not computer graphics or some kind of special effect. The tricks are live.

nissan flash dress-up ad dayz cinderella

Watch for yourself.

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Take a Oculus Rift virtual reality test drive into space in a Mitsubishi Outlander Phev

Written by: William on December 16, 2014 at 8:14 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Move over Christopher Nolan. Mitsubishi recently offered an interstellar virtual test drive for its Outlander Phev model using the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

Like the Nissan Leaf, the Outlander Phev is as much a giant battery as a vehicle. The EV can be charged up and store the electricity needed to power a household for a day. This makes it ideal for this kind of marketing gimmick, since you can plug in your computer and Oculus Rift directly into the car.

With the aid of the system, one lucky guy recently drove an Outlander Phev to the stars in a Mitsubishi showroom. He had two computers running in the trunk of the Outlander Phew and was connected to the nine speakers in the car.

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

Slipping on the headset, our intrepid adventurer then drove the vehicle through a virtual city and beyond…

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

…into space…

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

mitsubishi outlander phev oculus rift virtual test drive space stars

The “virtual space drive” graphics for the Oculus test drive were developed by Mitsubishi as part of its Starry Sky Project to encourage interest in astronomy and stargazing in Japan.

Though these images show a preview, the Oculus Outlander Phev car was also available at a booth at the Eco Products 2014 expo last weekend, following earlier tests at other events in October and November.

This isn’t the first VR stunt of its kind. Nissan previously used the Oculus Rift for a similar virtual reality driving experience at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2013.

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Times Car Plus – Affordable Car Sharing for City Dwellers

Written by: Tokyo Cheapo on October 3, 2014 at 7:40 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

This article by Greg Lane first appeared on Tokyo Cheapo.

While it’s great not needing to own a car in Tokyo (with all the incumbent expenses) there’s no question that it can be fun or sometimes necessary (big shopping trips) to get behind the wheel. That’s where car sharing services – like Times Car Plus – come in really handy, and for much less money than you might expect.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus

Times Car Plus is a service run by the company that operates the Times Car 24 parking lots which seem to sprout up on vacant land whenever a building gets demolished. There are literally thousands of locations dotted throughout the metropolis and beyond, so there is more than likely one nearby wherever you are in Tokyo. While the carparks are almost ubiquitous, not all of them have Times Car Plus cars available. Small parking lots may have only 1 or 2 cars while the bigger ones may have up to 10 or more cars available.

Getting Signed Up

Although sign-up and reservation is all in Japanese (if you don’t read Japanese, you’ll definitely need a friend to help). When you sign-up, you’ll have the option of joining as a corporate member or as an individual. If you have your own company in Japan, you’re best to sign-up as a company as it’s cheaper. Individual membership fees are ¥1,030 a month while the company plan has no monthly fees. The individual plan however, does include ¥1,030 worth of free driving each month, so if you use it regularly it will balance out.

After you’ve entered your information in the website, you’ll be given a few options to complete the membership. The fastest way is to head to the one of the Times Car Plus offices with your Japanese driver’s license. If everything is OK, they’ll hand you your membership card – which you need to unlock the cars.

How It Works

Reserving the car is relatively easy – even if you don’t speak much Japanese. Just install the Android or iPhone app, play with the map until you find a car nearby that meets your search criteria and then click the reserve button. This is where the system breaks down slightly – you’ll be sent to the mobile web page (which you’ll need to sign-in to) to complete your booking. When it’s time to pick up your car, head to the designated car park, put your card over the touch scanner on the back window and then climb in. The car will then start talking to you, telling you to remove the key from the device in the glove box. Then, you’re free to drive off. When you return it (to the same car park) you just do this in reverse.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus
Using the map, you can find nearby cars that fit your search criteria, then book them.

The Charges

Times Car Plus has a super simple system for charging. If you just want to grab a car and start driving, the cost is ¥206 for each 15-minute interval. So if you drive around for an hour, you’ll be charged ¥824. There are no charges for fuel or mileage. If you need to fill up, there is a fuel card attached to the driver side visor which you can use almost anywhere. If you do stop to fill up, they even give you a 15-minute free bonus. The ¥206 fee is for what they term “basic” cars – Suzuki Swifts, Mazda Demios and even larger Toyota Prius and Honda Fit Shuttles. If you want a “premium” car, the pay as you go fee is ¥412 for each 15-minute interval. The premium cars include BMW 116s, Mini One Crossovers, all electric Nissan Leafs (leaves?) and Audi A1s. However, if you reserve one of the longer time packs, you can get the premium cars for the same price as the basic ones. For example, if you get the 6-hour pack, you can choose any car you like and the total stays at ¥4,020. The only condition is that the premium cars are popular, so you should make sure you reserve early.

car sharing services tokyo japan times plus
Nothing like a Chiba traffic jam to remind you how awesome the train system is.

After you’ve completed your trip, you’ll be sent an email summary of your trip – with surprising detail. Listed, is the total time of rental, distance covered, maximum speed reached (I hit 99mk/h), emergency accelerations (apparently I had two), emergency braking (zero) and any subsequent penalties. The fact that it records everything means you should think very carefully before opening up the throttle on a deserted country road. As the maximum speed limit in Japan is 100km/h, presumably if I had gone a few kilometres an hour faster, I would have incurred a penalty.

Special Deals

In addition to the 6 hour pack, there are 12-hour packs, 24-hour packs, early night packs, late night packs and all night (strangely termed “double night”) packs – each with a mileage component. They also run regular campaigns. For example, there is currently a whole weekend pack during autumn for approx. ¥9,000. Generally, for longer rental periods, you may find places like Niconico Rentacar to be better value.

So how is it?

It generally works really well. However, you are sharing the car with others, so you’re hoping that the previous occupants cleaned up properly after themselves. On my first experience, the car was spotless. On the second, it contained rubbish, empty drink containers, food crumbs and even two boxes of cigarettes – all of which I had to throw away. After you’ve returned the car, Times Car Plus sends you an email asking about the state of the car which gives you the chance to tell them that it contained rubbish – so presumably the previous driver will get a black mark against their membership or some kind of penalty.

The actual driving is more fun than I expected. Tokyo’s blade runner style road system with tunnels, multilevel bridges and elevated motorways taller than a 10-storey building and toll booths every 5 minutes can seem intimidating, but you’ll likely find traffic levels much lower to what you’re used to at home and finding your way around isn’t difficult at all. If you can’t use the Japanese sat nav system, Google Maps turn by turn instructions also work pretty well.

Alternatives

Car sharing has really taken off in Japan recently. In addition to Times Car Plus, there is Orix Car Sharing and a another company called Careco – both of which partner with other car park providers to offer similar services so if Times Car Plus is not available near you, these may be good alternatives. We hope to review both of these at some time in the future, so stay tuned!

Read on Tokyo Cheapo.

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Japan introduces roundabout junctions nationwide

Written by: William on September 3, 2014 at 9:04 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

People from Britain, like myself, often forget that many other countries don’t have roundabouts. The idea of a circular junction with no traffic lights, where the unspoken rules of the road define who gives way and who pulls out and when — this frankly baffles non-Britons when they first witness the workings of one of the nation’s iconic roundabouts.

While standardized and made famous in the UK during the 1990′s, there are roundabouts today in places as far apart as Qatar, New Zealand, China and France. And now Japan.

There has been some speculation about Japan introducing signal-less roundabouts in the past but they’ve finally done it. There are 15 operating in 7 prefectures around Japan, as of September 1st. There are actually around 140 circular intersections in Japan, with some of these now legally designated as roundabouts.

japan roundabout junction roads

In 2012 six unsignalized intersections were tested in Karuizawa, Nagano, and then further tests were carried out in Shizuoka and Shiga prefectures.

Motorists in Japan, with its danger of electrical blackouts from the frequent earthquakes and other natural disasters, are actually possibly safer off with roundabouts, as they can be used without power. Roundabouts are not only better for the environment, they are also said to reduce accidents.

And if the idea of giving way to oncoming motorists without a signal to tell you to stop sounds like a recipe for traffic mayhem, remember that the Japanese a polite bunch. We predict the roundabout will be a success in this land of small cars and good manners.

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Toyo tire tread marks inspire Japanese yukata fashion

Written by: William on August 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 4 Comments

Toyo Tire and Rubber Co., Ltd. has created a series of yukata based on the tread designs of three of its tire products.

Here are what the Toyo tire tread yukata look like, modeled by Toyo employees. While you might associate tire treads with a somewhat rough or dirty image — since they are the parts of the tire that are gripping a road surface — or at least to be rather brawny or tough, the resulting yukata are as colorful and fun as you’d expect from the summer wear.

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

Yukata are, of course, Japanese summer kimonos and a frequent sight at firework displays and festivals in the hot months, though we’ve never seen any designed from tires!

“In order to give customers a sense of the rich expression of our tires,” Toyo says, “which are renowned for their original designs, we had our tread designs tailored into the patterns for yukata, a garment commonly worn during summers in Japan. By transposing the originality of tires, normally thought of as a simple round, black object, into the feminine world of color dimensions apart, we have created another unique touch point distinctive of Toyo Tires.”

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

The particular tread patterns come from popular Toyo tires PROXES R1R, OPEN COUNTRY M/T and NANOENERGY 0, while the dyeing in the yukata is in a traditional style.

The bad news is that that tire tread yukata are not for sale, though Toyo, after announcing the project back in July, promises to use the yukata at company promotional events.

toyo tire tread mark yukata fashion japanese kimono summer wear

[Hat tip to @nippon_en]

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Toyota shows off Pikachu, Fennekin Toyopet Pokémon cars at Tokyo Toy Show 2014

Written by: William on June 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm | In LIFESTYLE | 10 Comments

Toyota really did steal the show at the Tokyo Toy Show 2014. On top of their awesome Camatte Lab, which lets grown-ups see how a car works through driving a transparent vehicle and also allows kids to customize a sports car hood with their own drawings, the world’s biggest automobile maker also exhibited these Toyopet Pokémon cars.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

No prizes for guessing what’s going on here. This is a Pokémon-themed Toyota car, a very striking Pikachu yellow. Toyopet was actually first exhibited back at the 2012 Tokyo Toy Show and is making a welcome return.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

This time the Pikachu car is joined by a Fennekin character (known in Japan as Fokko) vehicle too. The fox-like Fennekin’s nose really sticks out.

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

Pokémon might be pretty old now but it still retains the power to make an impression, especially when it’s got the backing of a major car maker!

toyopet pokemon toyota car pikachu fennekin tokyo toy show 2014

And if you’re curious why you’ve never heard of the car model itself, don’t worry, it’s also not such a new one. The Toyopet line dates back to the 1940′s and made its last appearance on a series in the 1970′s.

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Toyota’s Camatte Lab at Tokyo Toy Show 2014 lets you design your own sports car hood

Written by: William on June 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Toyota has once again collaborated with Znug Design to produce another fun Camatte booth for the Tokyo Toy Show.

Following the Camatte’s first appearance in the 2012 and 2013 editions of the fair which allowed kids to play around with car panels, now comes a double treat for both design and automobile fans.

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

The Camatte Lab is divided into two zones. The Tech Lab gives visitors an unusual up-close look at the inner workings of the car. The hands-on Design Lab is more creative, letting visitors customize a Camatte vehicle.

The Tech Lab features a Camatte57s without its body panels so you can see how the steering gear and differential gear box work. The internal parts are shown moving when the steering wheel and accelerator are operated.

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

The Tokyo Toy Show booth features multiple screens so even the driver can see in detail what is going on with the mechanics from every angle.

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

The neighboring Design Lab has a Camatte57s Sport vehicle with special LEDs projecting onto the hood. This means visitors can customize the sports car by displaying their own digital drawings with the LEDs. Kids, get your crayons ready!

The system scans the drawing and then projects it onto the car. Here are some of Toyota’s ideas for designs.

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

tokyo toy show 2014 toyota camatte lab customize car design hood led znug kids children

Toyota bills Camatte as a “customizable, sporty, family-oriented concept” that will “free your imagination”. The name is inspired by the Japanese word for caring, meaning both “caring for others” and “caring for cars”.

The Tokyo Toy Show 2014 is open to the public this weekend at Tokyo Big Sight.

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Nissan surprises hard-working mom with unique drive-in theater

Written by: William on April 4, 2014 at 7:52 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Nissan has created a fun film of an eight-year-old giving his mom a very nice surprise.

Hinata and his mom take a drive in a Nissan Dayz Highway Star.

Mrs. Masuda thinks she is going to be appearing in a marketing video but instead gets directed to a special car park where her family proceeds to put on a play to tell her how much they appreciate her efforts to bring them up.

nissan presents happy smile drive in theater

It’s a bit sentimental, but still makes a very welcome change to the usual approaches to advertising from major Japanese corporations that rely on using the latest popular celebrity face.

We don’t want to spoil things too much for you so here’s the video.

Nissan has done this kind of “Happy Surprise” film before. Last year they rewarded another young mother with a whole spectacle featuring her relatives, led by a husband who wanted to propose to her properly after 11 years of marriage.

The resulting video became a word-of-mouth hit, generating nearly 800,000 views at time of writing.

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