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.
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.
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.
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 for Phone Touchscreens is now available from JapanTrendShop.
NEC GAZIRU-F image recognition tech integrates fashion magazine mobile shopping for smartphone, tablet camerasWritten 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a make-of video showing one of the models taking a self-portrait.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Fun’iki Ambient Glasses: iPhone-integrated “smart spectacles” with light notifications coming to your eyes soonWritten 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Bad news for Android users, though. The Fun’iki Ambient Glasses only support the iPhone at present.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The video then shows the “chaos and comedy” in the 46 seconds until the lights turn red again, all recreated in memorable SIMs.
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!