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, 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,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).


There’s now an official video of Pepper!


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Smart Zabuton checks café seat availability via cushion, links to smartphone app

Written by: William on April 28, 2014 at 1:12 pm | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Don’t you just hate heading to a bar or café, only to find every seat in the place taken? What if you could get an update to your phone to let you know how many seats were currently available at your destination?

This is particular the case in Japan and Tokyo, where many drinkeries and eateries are on the small size. It is common to wait for a seat in almost any major place in Shibuya or Shinjuku, though usually the staff provide you with a chair to sit on outside where you can browse the menu.

smart zabuton cushion chair seat smartphone check availability cafe restaurant

Enter the Smart Zabuton, a new type of system developed by Key Value that works with smartphones and tablets to send out a signal if the cushion is currently being occupied — that is, someone is sitting on it. (A zabuton is a traditional Japanese floor cushion, though here the target is more like a regular thin cushion that you place on a stool or chair.) Key Value expects to retail the Smart Zabuton at between ¥1,200 and ¥2,000 and sell both to individuals and corporations.

smart zabuton cushion chair seat smartphone check availability cafe restaurant

You can then check on your phone how many seats are free and which ones (i.e. you can see if there are two or three seats available together), and even how long the seat cushion has been occupied for — which would serve as a rough indicator for how long you’d have to wait until it became free.

smart zabuton cushion chair seat smartphone check availability cafe restaurant

This is surely not the first example of technology like this but we like it nonetheless. Since it only measures if someone is on the cushion there are no concerns about personal information being usurped by café owners or other users. The Smart Zabuton is compatible with Apple’s iBeacon Bluetooth Low Energy system and iOS 7, though the makers hope to expand this to Android in the future.

smart zabuton cushion chair seat smartphone check availability cafe restaurant

The Smart Zabuton could also work as part of a digital life log for an individual. If you are concerned with how much time you spend sitting down, then the Smart Zabuton could help you record and monitor this at various places (home, office, even on the train). Just take it around with you (or have more than one) and keep an eye on your phone’s app data.


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Simulation video of Shibuya Scramble Crossing pedestrian smartphone chaos is online hit

Written by: William on April 14, 2014 at 7:25 am | In LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Almost no sight says “Tokyo” more than Shibuya’s “scramble crossing”, the immense intersection in front of the Hachiko exit of the station in which multiple banks of pedestrians converge on each other like a battle scene from a movie.

Trying to weave through the crowds can be tricky, especially as many are tourists or visitors intent on taking pictures, and trying to take an unusual diagonal route across the flow can literally feel dangerous at times.

These days we are all glued to our smartphones, perhaps especially in Shibuya since we are searching for that hard-to-find store or bar. This reduces vision to a twentieth of what it is ordinarily, meaning you are much more likely to collide with other people or objects, or fail to spot hazards. Phone carriers campaign for their customers to use their products responsibly and safely, and this includes walking while using your trusty friend to search, mail or chat.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

How many times have you sighed when someone almost ran into you because they were doing something on their handheld screen, or when you have been held up by someone in front moving at a snail pace due to being preoccupied by sending an email?

As phone carrier NTT DoCoMo say:

One in five people texting while walking are involved in an accident or injuries.
Staring at the smartphone screen while walking distracts your attention from what is going on around you and is very dangerous.
And it is not only dangerous for you, but there is also the possibility of causing other people to be in a major accident.

Today, there is no end to the number of people text while walking.

Well, this video might very well increase awareness of this most modern of problems.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

What would happen if all the pedestrians using the famous crossing at Shibuya were all simultaneously looking at their phones?

Well, NTT DoCoMo has created a minor internet meme with this video simulation of that scenario. Since March 28th the video has been viewed nearly 2 million times.

The simulation calculated 1,500 pedestrians walking at speeds of 3, 4 of 6 kph. The pedestrians were created at the average height and weight for Japanese people.

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

The video then shows the “chaos and comedy” in the 46 seconds until the lights turn red again, all recreated in memorable SIMs.

The results?

ntt docomo shibuya scramble crossing video pedestrian smartphone use simulation

446 collisions. 103 people falling over. And 21 dropped (and damaged) smartphones.

Less than half the pedestrians made it to the other side of scramble crossing without incident.

So… you have been warned!



Christmas Eve in Japan: Get romantic (and devious) with Let’s Kiss app

Written by: William on December 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

Christmas is a strange time. It’s all the kitsch and the shopping minus the religion (or at least, the pretense of the religious).

In fact, Christmas Eve is the bigger event. It’s a day when people queues for hours in the cold for KFC chicken — no one seems to know why — and go on romantic dates in the evening, usually capped off with a liaison at a love hotel. Forget the baby Jesus: Christmas Eve is for couples. And given that Valentine’s Day in February and White Day in March are not exclusively for couples — it is customary to give all your male or female colleagues chocolates too — then Eve is the real time for lovers to show their affection for each other.

But what if you don’t have a special someone to snuggle up to?

There’s an app for that.

kisu shiyo let's kiss app candle blow 2ch japan

Kisu shiyo! (Let’s kiss) is an Android app for the lonely but cunning guys out there. At first glance it looks like a fortune-telling app, which are very popular with Japanese girls. You show it to a girl you like and tell them it will make her wishes come true. All she has to do is blow out the candle in the picture.

kisu shiyo let's kiss app candle blow 2ch japan

The app is actually a ploy so you can then take a photo of the cutie blowing towards the lens, which of course looks not unlike the girl ready for you to plant a smacker on her lips.

You then have yourself a commemorative image with which to spend your Christmas Eve this year. The girl will no doubt be furious when she hears the sound of the phone’s camera, so the app makers advise you not to forget to praise the girl for how cute she is!

kisu shiyo let's kiss app candle blow 2ch japan

OK, politically correct it certainly is not, but it is a novel way to ensure you are not alone this Christmas Eve.

No surprises here — the app was “invented” by 2ch netizens and spotted by Yahoo app developers, who then quickly turned it into a real app.


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SeeSaw, Japanese version of Snapchat app for photo and video sharing (with privacy)

Written by: Mina on October 21, 2013 at 10:44 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

If you are already familiar with Snapchat, SeeSaw is nothing new. We could very much say that SeeSaw is a Japanese version of this photo messaging app that lets you decide how long your photos can be viewed by the recipient — be it your family member, friend or colleague. From time to time, we all do things on a whim and regret such act a moment later. With the ever-increasing use of social networking service, the pictures and videos that we upload on the web can now be viewed and saved by million others instantly.

SeeSaw, on the other hand, prevents such unwanted spread of personal photos and videos by only letting users see messages for a few seconds. With Japanese digital users typically more cautious about privacy than their western counterparts, plus the wave of Twitter photo scandals this year that literally caused bankruptcies, this app comes out at an apt time indeed.

seesaw app

Just like Snapchat, a sender can set a “self-destruct” time limit for each message. The recipient can then view the message for the set time after which the message will be deleted from both the SeeSaw server and the recipient’s device. (Be careful, though, Snapchat at least has been hacked to overwrite this function!) Unless the recipient takes a screenshot of the message and saves it in their device, it will only remain in their memories as a moment captured and shared among a few.

seesaw app

As we can see in the above images, they seem to be targeting young users who don’t usually get to appreciate the fact that life indeed is a mere chain of brief moments. In a way, SeeSaw might go against the fundamental purpose of moment-capturing devices which we use to “freeze” the moment and preserve it for the rest of our lives.

A company like Mind Wave Inc. knows this too, since they created a character brand named after ichigo-ichie — a proverb which often translated as “Treasure every encounter, as it will never recur”. These characters are printed on various stationery goods which can be purchased in store or online.

ichigo ichie

The brand is perhaps a reminder to young people that nothing lasts forever, especially the happy moments. To me, it does seem a bit cheesy to feature school life in the app’s advertising, but many of us have learned good and bad, right and wrong first in classrooms — and that nothing good or bad lasts forever.


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iPhone Creative Festa 2013: handmade art for mass-produced mobile devices

Written by: Mina on September 20, 2013 at 11:20 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Just when we thought technology would replace everything, we hear about an event like iPhone Creative Festa and meet people who say — not just yet! Perhaps we all have this inner desire to be different from others, which urges us to seek — or become — the one and only something in the world.

From October 4th to 6th, iPhone Creative Festa 2013 will take place at Yokohama Akarenga to promote both established and emerging artists who like to use iPhone and iPad cases as a blank canvas to exercise their exquisite talent.


The event originally started in August 2010 as a way to exhibit iPhone cases as artwork and to commercialize them by promoting various artists who don’t get a chance to showcase their talent, let alone monetize their work on a regular basis. It has since attracted more than 230,000 visitors, and so far the exhibition has been held in Osaka, Ginza, and Paris.

While it’s not clear who the main organizer is (“iPhone Case Exhibition” is their name on the official site), the event is co-hosted by Yokohama Arts Foundation and co-sponsored by Focal Point Inc., a company that sells computer and mobile device accessories. It is also supported by Joint Works and a nonprofit organization called Creator Raising Association.

Here are some artworks from the past events.


Some are on sale, so whoever gets it first will take it all, as there is no other copy in stock!


With iPad cases this is obviously more room to experiment, yet these might go against the whole concept of being “mobile” — do you think you can still carry them around?



Visitors can also get hands-on experience in workshops and explore the iPhone photo exhibition held at the same venue.

The video clip below shows a short tour around the exhibition held last year.

iPhone Creative Festa 2013 takes place from October 4th to 6th. Admission is free.


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