KFC Ebisu rewards customers with smashed phone screens with free Krushers smoothie

Written by: William on February 26, 2015 at 8:54 am | In LIFESTYLE | 5 Comments

Head into a KFC in Japan on March 1st and if you’re clumsy enough, you can get a free drink.

The Ebisu branch of KFC is running a special campaign rewarding those poor souls among us who have dropped their mobile devices and cracked the screens.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

If you haven’t had the misfortune to have cracked your screen, don’t worry. KFC Ebisu is loaning out hammers on March 1st for anyone who wants to join the lucky people claiming a freebie.

Yes, they will actually give you a hammer so you can smash your own phone screen.

Needless to say, you have to take responsibility for whatever carnage you cause to your device.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

The perk of having a cracked screen isn’t that amazing.

You only get a free Krushers smoothie, though KFC is probably the only restaurant in Japan that actively lets customers make use of their damaged hardware. And this is also not a bad way to promote a drink that likely doesn’t sell much during the colder months.

kfc ebisu krusher-smashed phone screen free drink

So butterfingers, head down to the Colonel Sanders eatery in Ebisu on March 1st with your cracked phone in tow.

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Bandai takes us back to the future with the DeLorean iPhone 6 Case

Written by: Japan Trends on February 23, 2015 at 11:02 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Bandai has created a second installment in its Crazy Case series of phone covers.

The Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case takes your right back to 1989 and the coolest thing every boy in the world had ever seen — hoverboards!

back to the future part 2 poster

Now, remember the flying car in The Back to the Future: Part II? Yes. Surprised not to see them in use today? Well, no. But the film was actually set in 2015, perhaps indicating some seriously wishful thinking on the filmmakers’ parts.

So while we can take a trip in a flying car right now, you can get the next best thing… for your phone.

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

The Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case is shaped just like the famous 1980′s time-travel machine and with all kinds of details designed to trigger nostalgic memories of seeing the flying DeLorean on the big screen.

Flaps, fold-up wheels… This is more like a puzzle than a case. And the really cool thing are the LED lights that glow blue whenever you get a call. Which should definitely get your attention, and that of your neighbor.

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Back to the Future: Part II DeLorean iPhone 6 Case bandai crazy phone cover

Despite the added the bulk of this “crazy case”, the camera can still be used. The bonnet slides over so the lens is free to snap away at whatever Marty McFly wants to photograph.

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Thanko Thumb Extender for Phone Touchscreens saves you time with large mobile devices

Written by: Japan Trends on December 5, 2014 at 8:27 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

Thanko are our favorite Japanese gadget makers, not least because their approach to the marketing is always so gleefully down-to-earth but also because they deliberately find everyday problems and seek out low-fi, cheap resolutions.

Here’s a case in point.

thanko thumb extender extension finger phone touchscreen

Don’t you just hate it when your fingers can’t get around the screen on your phone fast enough? Or when you need two hands for those recent phones with larger screens?

Enter the Thanko Thumb Extender for Phone Touchscreens.

thanko thumb extender extension finger phone touchscreen

This really is how it sounds — a slip-on “extender” for your thumb.

Our mobile devices have recently being getting bigger and our digital lives busier.

Thanks to the Thumb Extender, the extra few millimeters will leave you other hand free for staying steady during the morning commute.

thanko thumb extender extension finger phone touchscreen

There is a black tab on the underside of the thumb so you can click away on your screen as if the Thumb Extender is a genuine part of your digit.

If you’re worried about getting strange looks from people, don’t worry. The Thumb Extender looks like a real thumb so at a quick glance people may not even notice. Or at least, that’s the idea.

thanko thumb extender extension finger phone touchscreen
Check it out in action.

Thanko Thumb Extender for Phone Touchscreens is now available from JapanTrendShop.

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NEC GAZIRU-F image recognition tech integrates fashion magazine mobile shopping for smartphone, tablet cameras

Written by: William on November 13, 2014 at 9:09 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

NEC has got together with Fashion TV to offer a smartphone and tablet service for mobile eCommerce for apparel items you see in a magazine. If you see an item in a magazine you like, you can use GAZIRU-F to snap a shot of it and be connected to a shopping portal to purchase the product.

The service will be available through an app for the fashion magazine persona from spring 2015. GAZIRU-F will be expanded to 20 further companies by 2016 if it proves successful.

nec fashion tv gaziru-f mobile ecommerce image recognition shopping tech photograph smartphone tablet

NEC has been developing the cloud-based Gaziru technology for a while. Dig Info did a report on it back in 2012.

The name is coined from combining two Japanese words: gazo (image) and shiru (know, recognize).

Similar to Google Goggles or Bing Vision, you can just take a snap of something and get a readout of the information it can draw from a database. No text input is required.

GAZIRU is not restricted to images of 2D objects. Further uses for GAZIRU tech may include helping people operate equipment — take a photograph of something and get an operation manual on your screen in seconds. Likewise there are benefits for health, such as being able to provide nutritional data for certain foods. The educational implications are immense; a museum or exhibition can become interact with further information for visitors who want to know more about a certain item on display.

The days of the humble barcode or QR code are surely limited.

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Underwater Knee-High Girls: Now swimming onto your iPhone

Written by: William on October 23, 2014 at 8:07 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The “Underwater Knee-High Girls” series of aquatic slinky ladies by photographer Manabu Koga has already produced two photography books and a current photography exhibition. Now they can be swimming seductively on your iPhone too.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

The “Suichu Ni-so” features models swimming underwater in a variety of poses and with all manner of unusual props (umbrellas, mecha-esque bodysuits, toy guns), but always wearing knee-high socks.

Given how easy it is to make phone cases and covers these days, we guess it was inevitable that the next merchandise in the series would be coming to our handsets.

Manabu Koga has reproduced his series of images as iPhone 5 covers. All 190 of the models and outfits featured in the new photography book are available as iPhone 5 covers, though if you want overseas shipping you’d be better off asking JapanTrendShop to track down a case for you.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

The “Underwater Knee-High Girls” photography exhibition also runs at PATER’S Shop and Gallery in Harajuku from October 24th to November 5th, with exhibits including images not featured in the final photography book.

manabu koga underwater girls knee high socks swimming diving photography japanese iphone 5 cover casae

Here’s a make-of video showing one of the models taking a self-portrait.

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The Snap Up by en route, a crowdsourced fashion show on the streets of Tokyo

Written by: William on October 8, 2014 at 10:36 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Last month United Arrows’ en route brand ran a special “crowdsourced fashion show” on the streets of Omotesando and Harajuku.

In the words of Contagious.com, The Snap Up campaign saw “fashion brand encourage the public to act like the paparazzi in Tokyo”.

We’re a little late to the party with this story but because it’s pretty cool, we reckon it still merits a write-up one month after the fact.

En Route sent models for three hours wearing its 2014 autumn-winter line out into the streets during the Vogue Fashion Night Out, the annual bonanza which sees lots brands and stores in Omotesando running special evening events.

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

Members of the public were invited to hunt for the wandering models, take their pictures, and then upload them via the dedicated The Snap Up iPhone app. These were then judged in realtime and uploaded to the campaign website. The selected images netted the photographer a small cash prize of ¥1,000 (under $10).

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

And apparently there was a mysterious “Cashier Man” also walking the streets. If they stumbled across him, you could swipe your phone on his arm and claim money on the spot. Nice! According to Contagious.com,1,000 people took 27,000 photos.

en route the snap up crowdsourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

Here’s a trailer giving you a taster of the campaign.

Although the photos themselves no longer seem to be available, on The Snap Up website you can even watch a four-hour-plus “live” video of the event.

En route is aimed at men and women in their thirties, centering around fashion and sports under the concept of “Wearable Tokyo”. It opened its first store in Ginza in September, shortly after it ran The Snap Up campaign.

en route the snap up crowd sourced fashion show tokyo streets vogue fashion night out 2014 campaign united arrows

In Japan privacy has more respect than other places and TV shows will typically blur out the faces of random people who happen to walk into shot during filming. There has also been a lot of brouhaha recently about fans snapping photos of celebrities without explicit permission from the person being lensed.

And so for a brand to encourage profligate photography and indiscriminate social media sharing is quite a bold marketing move, locally at least.

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Fun’iki Ambient Glasses: iPhone-integrated “smart spectacles” with light notifications coming to your eyes soon

Written by: William on August 8, 2014 at 10:18 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 6 Comments

How would you like to use your phone while it remains snug in your pocket or bag? These glasses bring us one step closer to this.

Already spotted by Engadget and others at CNET Japan Live 2014, Matilde’s Fun’iki Ambient Glasses mean you can “see” your smartphone without needing to look at it.

fun'iki ambient glasses iphone smartphone integrated light led notifications handset japanese

Here’s how the makers sell it:

FUN’IKI Glasses are linked to your smartphone, and their multicolored LED lights + sound signals from their micro speaker will notify you of numerous information without you ever taking any action. No more hassle of checking your smartphone every single minute and they look cool. We believe that FUN’IKI Glasses will be a part of your daily life in the most seamless way.

The Fun’iki Ambient Glasses remind us of the JINS Meme Glasses, which we reported on back in May, though there the focus was on notifications to the wearer’s physique. This time it’s all about handset and online interaction.

fun'iki ambient glasses iphone smartphone integrated light led notifications handset japanese

The glasses have arms with built-in speakers, plus six full-color LED lights and a lithium-ion battery that charges up via USB. It features an ambient light sensor (meaning light is brighter in dark environments) and an accelerometer, not to mention Bluetooth and Wi-fi. Oh, and Morse code for some unfathomable reason.

Using a free dedicated app, you assign the various lights and sounds to different notifications, such as email, phone call, social media updates, and so on. So if you see a “red” glow, it means you’ve got a message from someone or the weather has changed, your stock has jumped in value…

If you’re desperately waiting for that mail but don’t want to appear rude at a meeting by always checking your phone, you can just let the glasses tell you instead. Likewise, you can get schedule reminders without having to, well, check your schedule.

fun'iki ambient glasses iphone smartphone integrated light led notifications handset japanese

It’s like “a Tinker Bell”, as Matilde says!

The Bluetooth Smart technology comes from Nordic Semiconductor, while help has also been provided by Paris Miki and the Institute of Advanced Media arts and Sciences.

The designers even reckon that, with its changing lights, the Fun’iki Ambient Glasses will make you stand out at social gatherings and look cool, like a sort of mini illumination show. There is even a special “party” mode with disco-friendly light patterns, plus a “relax” setting offering gentle hues to help you calm down after a long day of reminders and notifications.

fun'iki ambient glasses iphone smartphone integrated light led notifications handset japanese

A current Makuake crowdfunding project has raised well over the ¥3 million (about $30,000) target with still more than 30 days left to go! The campaign is offering funders the chance to get a pair of glasses for ¥10,000 (about $100), a more than 50% discount on the regular retail price of ¥23,000 (about $230).

fun'iki ambient glasses iphone smartphone integrated light led notifications handset japanese

Bad news for Android users, though. The Fun’iki Ambient Glasses only support the iPhone at present.

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Emoji Among Us: A new short documentary about emoji

Written by: William on July 21, 2014 at 11:56 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Here is a documentary called Emoji Among Us, now available on Dissolve.

This short documentary (more like a trailer for a documentary) declares that emoji have become infused in our lives and communication, but are not always fully understood. Not surprisingly, the footage makes ample use of emoji-style characters.

emoji among us documentary spoof

As the makers say: “Emoji have become an inescapable part of our daily lives. This short film examines the far-reaching impact these very special characters have had on our society. Made entirely with footage from Dissolve… and 68 of our emoji friends.”

British viewers will immediately note how the narration apes the David Attenborough style of nature documentary that have been such hits for the BBC over the years.

“Since they first appeared on our shores earlier this decade, these charming and versatile figures have capture our hearts,” as the opening intones.

Before you get too excited, we should point it’s not actually Sir David, though, but apparently a voice actor called James Gillies. However, as the narration heavily hints, this whole documentary is kind of a spoof of TV nature shows.

As opposed to the American-made emoticon, emoji are of course a Japanese invention. The name means “picture word” or “picture character”, and so emoji are typically pictographic. First created by Shigetaka Kurita at NTT Docomo for the pioneering i-mode platform in order to lure all-important young users back to the digital fold, emoji were a hit as they allowed users to inject some cuteness and fun into their messaging. Not just a gimmick for youngsters, though, emoji in fact could be very useful in helping navigate communication when Japanese can be ambiguous. What may sound formal or cold is nonetheless often a standard response to something, and with an emoji added, the intended warmth and friendliness properly comes through. Eventually emoji conquered the world.

While emoticons and emoji can be used in the same way and as names are sometimes used interchangeably, they are technically created in different ways (most obviously, emoticon come from user-generated text) and emoji are ultimately limited since they are predefined images in code form that your computer or phone reads.

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Meet Pepper: SoftBank stores to be staffed by humanoid robots

Written by: William on June 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Stores of SoftBank, one of Japan’s three main mobile phone providers, will be staffed by robots, announced CEO and Japan’s richest man Masayoshi Son at a press conference today in Tokyo.

softbank pepper robot shop store staff humanoid customer service cute masayoshi son

The robot is the Pepper, a new model developed by French robotics company Aldebaran, who have previously produced robots like the Nao and in which Softbank took a stake in 2012. Foxconn will build the new robotic shop attendants.

Pepper is the “world’s first personal robot with emotions”. It can learn from interactions by using a cloud AI system so that other Pepper robots can benefit from each unit’s experiences with customers and humans.

softbank pepper robot shop store staff humanoid customer service cute masayoshi son

Shown off in the demonstration today, Pepper is a short humanoid robot with a tablet on its chest, no doubt for customers to use to browse information on products and for Pepper to show things to people. While it doesn’t have legs, it does have arms that is can use to wave realistically and greet people. It can even sing and dance. Forget the uncanny valley, this is cute robotics!

softbank pepper robot shop store staff humanoid customer service cute masayoshi son

News sources are placing the new bold development in the context of Japan’s aging population, since robotics has frequently been touted as a solution for a future nursing shortage. Japan’s overall robotics market was worth about 860 billion yen ($8.38 billion) in 2012 and is forecast to more than triple in value to 2.85 trillion yen by 2020, says Reuters. With the announcement of the Pepper, it’s about to get bigger.

softbank pepper robot shop store staff humanoid customer service cute masayoshi son

Pepper will be serving customers in two Tokyo SoftBank branches from tomorrow (June 6th) and will also go on general sale next year, priced at a very modest circa ¥200,000 (around $2,000).

*Update*

There’s now an official video of Pepper!

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