Cyber Agent, the people of Ameba, are part of a three-company consortium behind the new Shibuya Clickable Project, a system for Online to Offline (O2O) services using IC tags and NFC-enabled smartphones.
Lampposts in Shibuya will have IC tags installed as stickers on them so that users with smartphones can receive data on events and nearby stores. The service will start in early June, provided by some 300 streetlights along Shibuya’s Koen-dori, Dougenzaka and Miyamasuzaka in collaboration with the retailers’ associations in the Shibuya station area.
Similar to the Ginza Ubiquitous Technology Project, which saw Ginza and other areas tagged with QR codes, IC tags and more to offer local information to pedestrians with a special handset, the idea here is to be more commercially viable, offering special deals to users who “scan” the lamppost tags — real-time coupons and so on. (The Ginza Ubiquitous Technology Project is a long-running scheme run rather haphazardly by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ostensibly for tourists in Ginza, Ueno, Hamarikyu Gardens and so on.)
It sounds a bit analog to be tagging lampposts in Ginza or Shibuya in this way, but as Cyber Agent says, “by utilizing IC tag-embedded stickers, the user’s location can be determined more accurately than with GPS, the usual technology for establishing location, allowing the provision of more specific and detailed local information.”
The Shibuya Clickable Project will release information not only on retail sites but also can dispense invaluable maps and updates during disasters and hazards. However, its main purpose is for PR and promo information, such as coupons, product samples and campaign news for cafes, stores and events. Later it will be broadened to work with Mapion, a popular location search service, for better specified location data, and also install tags inside stores.
Visitors to Shibuya should also look out for “interactive measures linked to large outdoor video screens in Shibuya” and “campaigns utilizing treasure hunt games”.
Raising kids is indeed one of the toughest jobs out there. While parenting entails balancing when to treat and when to reprimand your child (of which I’m sure the latter is much harder), Media Active is now offering a helping hand to parents who just can’t get their kids to behave.
The free smartphone app is called Oni kara denwa (literally, “the call from a demon” — though oni can also be translated as “troll” or “ogre”) and the name alone would surely scare your child enough! The idea is that you get the call and then pass the phone to them, making them listen and stop whining.
Simply choose one from the six most typical child discipline situations — not going to bed, not taking medicine, not tidying up etc — and you’ll then get a call from a variety of scary or authoritarian figures, the most popular of which will surely be the “red demon” (Akaoni).
The only “work” required on your side is to pretend that the call is real by responding. Here’s how the conversation might go.
“Hello? Yes. Oh, it’s the Akaoni. Yes, my child is being very naughty again. Here, you can speak to him.” Cue passing the phone to terrified child!
Actually, we think the visual effect of the Akaoni’s face appearing on the screen is probably more than sufficient to produce total obedience.
There are some other, more benign characters too, such as a doctor and even Santa Claus, though Akaoni will surely be the most popular with parents at a loss with rebellious brats.
The idea of using an ogre, according to the CEO, originated from the character of Namahage, where a man dressed up as an ogre walks into people’s houses on New Year’s Eve to see if there’s any naughty kid around, a traditional ritual in some parts of the Akita prefecture.
While the nature of this practice somewhat reminds me of Father Christmas checking his list every year to see who should get a present (or even European figures like Krampus), Namahage does not reward good kids: their job is simply to punish naughty kids by giving them what could be the most traumatic experience of their childhood. Here’s what namahage looks like in “real life”.
In addition to the red ogre, other scary figures are also on call. You can see the latest versions here.
While some people would definitely argue against the use of non-human beings or even the latest technology in parenting, sometimes one’s goodness comes from the fear of greater forces — after all, that’s how the world works, right?
Another Valentine’s Day-themed post for all you romantics out there, just in time for February 14th in some parts of the world!
Here’s a couple nice Japanese romantic apps we have found — surely not the only ones of their kind in the world, but that doesn’t stop them from being a bit cute.
Sand Message is an app allows you to write a message in a color of your choice and then have your partner “blow” the sand away to reveal the words.
And if an app is too mundane for you, how about this different Sand Message service — where someone will literally write your message in the sands of an Okinawan beach, and then send you the picture… all for ¥300. (Unfortunately, due to an overwhelming number of orders, the service is currently stopped.)
The app Wadai ageruze, whose title means something like “I’ll give you a topic!”, is a way to combat those awkward dates where the conversation isn’t flowing so well.
A quick tap and the “hand” will reach down to get a ball, each of which features a useful tip for something to talk about.
You can also add your own topics to use later.
Japanese weddings. All the ladies in their finest, particularly the unmarried ones, desperate to prove that they haven’t been left on the shelf. All the guys in their pricy suits that will be shed as soon as the nomihoudai all-you-can-drink hits home.
From the special envelope in which you are supposed to hand over the “gift” (i.e. fee) to the series of bizarre photo opportunities of the couple (the grand entrance, the “kiss” and a million costume changes), Japanese wedding parties can seem like a sequence of curious rituals more eccentric than romantic.
One of these is the games. While bingo may be a pursuit mostly enjoyed by pensioners in my native land, in Japan young ‘uns at weddings compete to win expensive prizes provided by the bride and groom.
There are also sometimes quizzes where everyone has to answer questions about the happy couple.
And as technology evolve, so do weddings.
We recently stumbled upon this, the rather suitably named Party Quiz, which allows the guests to play multiple choice tests with questions set by the organizers.
All participants answer the group quiz on their phones, eliminating the need for time-consuming distribution (and collection) of paper and pens.
Plus you can add photos and other customized elements to the question slides, and the results are of course communicated to everyone’s handsets instantly, including ranking (so you can see who scored the lowest, natch).
It works with smartphones, tablets or regular Japanese mobiles (for those still in the “Stone Age”). All you then need is a screen and projector to display the questions for everyone.
The system is also rather nicely priced — just ¥500 (about $5) multipled by the number of participants.
While the tech might not exactly be cutting-edge, we like how this works smoothly and practically with local customs to create a better experience for participants.
The singer and model Kyary Pamyu Pamyu last night (January 29th) performed a concert at Sojoji temple in Shiba Park in the brightly lit shadows of Tokyo Tower, where 1,500 invitees had gathered for a one-off four-hour event organized by au KDDI.
The mobile phone carrier turned the local area into a digital interactive quasi-theme park. Participants could experience manipulating taxis, water fountains, street lights — all via the “remote control” on their smartphone. In her concert — which also deployed special projection mapping — Kyary Pamyu Pamyu also showed off how you can control illuminations on Tokyo Tower with your phone.
Unfortunately there’s no video of the event yet but to give you a taste, here’s au KDDI TV commerical as part of the FULL CONTROL TOKYO campaign.
Now that would certainly liven up a trip to Shibuya.
All this hullabaloo is advertising their smartphone app Odoroki (Astonishing!), which apparently allows you and your handset to interact with things. In the words of the app’s slogan, you can “full [sic] control your city”. Well, who needs grammatically correct adverbs when you can do funky stuff with your touchscreen.
I feel like I should issue a disclaimer here on behalf of au KDDI. I’m pretty sure Odoroki does not mean you can start controlling screens at Scramble Crossing or send beams off light out of skyscrapers.
Footage from the Kyary Pamyu Pamyu event will be used in the next TV commercial.
The TV commercial is now online! This event did look pretty awesome.
Forget the retro charms of Instagram, transform the photos taken with your phone into a personal comic book strip instead!
Manga Camera is an phone app that converts your regular image into a frame from a manga comic, complete with onomatopoeic phrases to give an extra edge to the latest portrait of your cat or loved one.
The iPhone app took the country by storm last year and received around 3 million downloads in its initial month of release, 1 million in the first week alone.
Japan is the home of manga (and Purikura photo booths), of course, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone but the relatively simple app really tapped into an as-then hungry niche. This is expanding, though, with a rival “Otaku Camera” app now available as well.
The life of the average salaryman could no doubt do with a bit of spicing up and pictures of your colleagues converted into comic book characters is certainly one way to make the twelve-hour stint at the office go faster.
The brainchild of Shunsuke Funaki, Manga Camera received some welcome publicity overseas when it was first released (yes, I know we’re late to the party!) and is still going strong (it released an Android version in December). Downloads are not just from Japanese users either. Taiwanese and Koreans also apparently rank high.
The problem is how to make this kind of app not just a quick blink-and-it’s-gone hit. Sure, there are 32 kinds of manga frames to choose from but can this genre of app keep going? The development time was apparently just under a month — but can the popularity of the app last any longer?
SNS functionality is a must, for sure, as is targeting other Asian regions, especially China.
Other photo-editing local apps on the market that have done a good job with this include Snapeee, which brings the uber-kawaii feminine touches of Purikura to your phone.
There is also miil, an app especially for sharing images of food. The Japanese are obsessed with taking photos of their meals and then uploading them to blogs and social media. Can this more esoteric kind of app, which has also passed local user milestones in the millions, grow in other regions as well? The jury’s out for now.
It might only be late December but some people are already thinking about spring next year.
Why? Because the most important exams ever for school students take place then.
The singer Naoto Inti Raymi, who is appearing in the famous New Year Kohaku TV music contest for the first time this year, has got together with Nestle’s KitKat to sing a song wishing high school students good luck with their studies for the approaching university exams.
The college exam gauntlet is an insanely tough time for local high school kids and can literally decide the rest of their lives if they have their hearts set on particulary colleges.
We’re not sure if KitKat will really help advance their academic careers, but a free augmented reality music app can’t do any harm.
By scanning one of four KitKat products with your iPhone or Android phone camera, the “AR Concert” will kick off, with your device as the venue for the private gig between you and Naoto Inti Raymi.
Since 2002 KitKat has positioned itself as the savior of Japan’s high school kids with its “With KitKat you’ll probably win” spring campaign (the tagline sounds better in Japanese, with a play on Kitto Katto and kitto for “probably”). Family and friends often give the chocolate to students with messages written on the packaging.
The app’s AR is available until the end of March next year.
Today the FIFA Club World Cup will be kicking off here in Tokyo and Yokohama.
One of the sponsors, Sony, has a cool smartphone app that allows fans to show their support for their team in an intuitive and fun way.
With Vamos Viewing you can show and share your enthusiasm for your team while watching them live. By shaking your smartphone the app visualizes and quantifies your passion and then shares it on a network with fellow fans, creating a kind of digital stadium whether you are watching the match at home, in the bar or in the venue itself.
You can also choose your own special sounds for cheering on your team.
It actually was available last year but has now been upgraded from only being only Android to also offering iOS support, and is also available in Brazil too.
Sony has re-launched its Vamos Viewing content on the occasion of the FIFA tournament being held in Japan this year. There will be live-streamed content of former football pros watching the games and giving their personalized commentary. Plus there will be “ambassadors” for each of the countries and teams represented, who will be tweeting and encouraging ordinary users to support their team.
The FIFA Club World Cup Japan features six teams from different countries and continents, including top South American team Corinthians and Chelsea from the UK. Host Japan is represented by Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The tournament runs till December 16.
Pairy was announced in June, a special iPhone and Android app just for a couple to communicate between themselves.
Pairy is not a pioneer in a global sense but it might provide solutions to local digital dilemmas.
But privacy is more important to Japanese web users than Americans and Europeans (sometimes a Google search for a Japanese person will literally bring up nothing). This isn’t just for saccharine and schmaltzy couples: Pairy will mean that you can chat on Facebook and tweet just between yourselves (like the app Path), which is very important for Japanese.
Forgetful men will like that you can have the app notify you about your anniversary and for the sleazier amongst you, you can even chronicle those “milestones” you have reached with your partner (first kiss etc) in a “couple timeline”.
The developers have taken out any potentially negative or problem-causing issues too, such as giveaways like your present location (after all, knowing where your lover is might create all sorts of relationship issues!). There is also a (tongue-in-cheek?) warning at the bottom of their website advising that this is not a service for “monitoring or restricting” your boyfriend or girlfriend. People prone to jealous paranoia will likely find it frustrating.
The focus is on chatting, writing a mutual blog, sharing links and getting information about dates and places to go (restaurants etc) tailored to the particular couple.
There is also a digital “stamps” feature where you can add cute illustrations to express yourself like emoticons (this is surely how they make their money?). In this respect the user interface and interaction retains a very Japanese look.
Line has also seen success with this kind of “virtual sticker shop” feature. A free Japanese phone call and messaging app, it was launched after the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami and currently has some 60 million users worldwide.
Japanese users took to Facebook very slowly because of the concerns over privacy so local developers have found ways to exploit the best things about the platform, while also respecting vernacular worries. According to research by the University of Tokyo’s graduate school in the summer, some 56% of users across the generations are now using some kind of SNS, a 23% jump from 2010 levels. Though it hasn’t been plain sailing for all platforms, that is not to say there isn’t a strong craving for digital communication.
Another reason for Facebook’s initially turgid growth was that Mixi had made such a success out of the “diary” SNS genre. This is still popular, it seems, as witnessed by the launch very recently of wakka (pictured above), a diary app from Cyber Agent for sharing your mini blog entries with your friends.