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).
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!
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) 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yahoo! Japan has recently released two new modes for their timer app Tsuukin Timer (Commute Timer), which tells users when their train leaves in the form of a countdown. As you can see from the pictures, users can now choose either a cute cat or cute girl to be displayed as the wallpaper.
To use this app, you simply set up your closest station, train line and direction from home and to work or school, and switch the “to (iki) and from (kaeri)” modes depending on where you’re heading at the moment.
This app would especially come in handy when you want to check the time of your last train. The countdown on the screen might work more effectively as a way to excuse yourself when you are caught up in a drinking party you don’t necessarily want to attend… After all, as the name tells itself, this app is specifically designed for commuters like salarymen always expected to be on time at any given moment.
The app also gives you a list of upcoming trains, so you don’t have to check for the time every five minutes.
As for the two new modes released recently, the cat mode has 80 pictures of cats, some of which are actual pet cats of Yahoo! employees, while the “girl” mode features 80 pictures of “beauties” from all over Japan.
I didn’t have any problem with the cat one — people in Japan are crazy about cats! — but who are these ladies? Well, it turns out that the lady mode is offered in collaboration with an even more unique site called Bijin Tokei and is available for a limited time only, until the middle of October.
Bijin Tokei is a digital clock (tokei) that comes with numerous pictures of “beautiful women” (bijin). “Bijin Tokei makes you fall in one minute of love,” they say, as the pictures change every minute. So far, 360 amateur models have contributed to their database of 1,440 pictures, and they are calling for more people to make their modeling “debut” as a beauty clock on their site.
There is actually a male version (called Binan, which translates as “beautiful/handsome men”) available as well!
Some other versions include gal, Korea, ladies with glasses, ladies in Hawaii, ladies with different hairstyles, kids, brides, beautiful/handsome men in Kyoto and Kagoshima… It’s endless! They also have an English site.
After years of campaigning, Mt Fuji, Japan’s highest peak and an ingenious piece of natural symmetry, was recently finally elevated to that status that perhaps of all people the Japanese seem to be obsessed with — UNESCO World Heritage.
This has led to a flurry of media excitement as well as lots of tie-in merchandise, plus some beard-stroking from pundits about how to preserve what is essentially a sacred mountain but is “climbed” (more like strolled up) by hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
Well, you could also just put that all aside and get your hands on some Mt Fuji Smart Pants.
Unless you are a micro person you might have some serious trouble fitting into these, but nonetheless your mobile wardrobe is now complete with Bandai’s summer line-up of Gashapon toy capsules, which includes this remarkable — profane? — mini upside-down Mt Fuji.
You clip it onto the top of your smartphone (hence the “smart” in “smart pants”) and then you have Japan’s most famous mountain as a kind of phone bandana-cum-underwear.
There are eight versions, all in the
Mt Fuji — sorry, pants shape, but with colors varying from stripes to dots to even rather menacing pink “spikes”.
The series — actually Bandai’s second like this — go on sale at Gashapon capsule vending machines in late July.