In post-Fukushima Japan, we need more projects like this.
While the LDP government slowly cranks up the return to full nuclear power, some Japanese corporations are being more realistic about the future. One of them is Kyocera, which has built the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant at a cost of $275.5 million.
The solar power plant is Japan’s largest and has a capacity of 70 megawatts. That’s enough to power some 22,000 Japanese homes (which are typically a bit smaller than American or European ones).
According to Kyocera, the plant “is being operated by a special purpose company established by Kyocera and six other companies to sell the electricity to a local utility under Japan’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program.”
The Kyushu facility covers an area of 1,270,000m2, roughly the same area as 27 baseball stadiums.
Expectations and interest in solar energy have heightened to a new level in Japan with the need to resolve power supply issues resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. To further promote the use of renewable energy, the Japanese government launched a restructured FIT program in July 2012, which stipulates that local utilities are required to purchase 100% of the power generated from solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts (kW) for a period of 20 years.
Kyocera is also being savvy about the PR advantages of being a green pioneer in Japan, not to mention how it can tie in with regional tourism, a formidable money-spinner. That’s why it is promoting the site not only for its long-term eco implications but also its own intrinsic value as a visiting destination for technology buffs (of which there are more than a few in Japan) or even sightseers hoping for good views of nearby Sakurajima.
Additionally, a tour facility has been built adjacent to the 70MW plant — which is open to the public — featuring a circular viewing room where visitors can observe the 290,000 solar panels from an elevated vantage point and enjoy the view of the ocean bay and grand Sakurajima volcano in the background. Display zones for visitors such as students and tourists provide information about environmental issues and the science behind photovoltaic energy generation. By dedicating this facility, all parties involved hope to foster a deeper understanding of renewable energy and further facilitate a low-carbon society.
Let’s hope that vision isn’t too far away.
We love DigInfo News and have met the people behind the channel in the past. Their reports are always well made and cover a broad range of topics. Guaranteed to be found at almost any important technology or digital media event, they are one of the most reliable sources for quality reporting about technology in Japan.
But DigInfo needs our help.
Aki Tsukioka, head of Digitalized Information, the company behind the YouTube channel, which has been delivering videos since 2007, has published a short appeal for funds.
We have come a long way, but we need support now. If you have enjoyed watching our videos and if you would like to see us continue and expand our coverage, we’d appreciate it if you could support us via PayPal.
Regular viewers of DigInfo’s viewers may well recognize Mr Tsukioka’s voice as the narrator of many of the reports! It’s a little disconcerting to hear the voice without the usual footage of a robot.
Despite having been viewed by almost 100 million internet users in at least 130 countries, they cannot make ends meet, it seems.
We do worry a little about the prospects of their fund-raising campaign. In this day and age of crowd-funding via KickStarter et al, the campaign is usually presented very clearly in terms of why the money is needed and where it will go.
Here, as many YouTube commenters have pointed out, there is no explanation for the need for the money now nor how it might be used. Aki Tsukioka instead has asked viewers to give donations via a PayPal account, which we fear people will be reluctant to do. Perhaps DigInfo will issue a more detailed clarification in time?
For now, we wish them the best of luck with their campaign and hope they can continue to make their great reports.
On September 17th, Yahoo! Japan announced the launch of their new project, Hands on Search.
Combining their 3-D database and digital printing technology, this search engine enables you to “touch” the search results. The brand-new concept, they say, that has added to conventional search methods which are based on visual and auditory perceptions. The search results that we get are also taken from an intangible database which can be described as a collection of texts, images, videos and audio. But what if we could add the sense of touch to the learning experience by turning information into tactile objects?
Although 3-D printing itself has been around for some decades or so, the voice-activated Hands on Search is built on the idea of learning the unknown by how it feels to the touch.
The machine was first introduced to students at the national school for the visually impaired, Special Needs Education School at University of Tsukuba. The visually impaired, of course, know all about the importance of haptic communication.
The red button activates the search function, while the blue one prints the result. The current 3-D data is provided by Yahoo! Japan and three other companies, Nissan Motor, Amanaimages and Tokyo Skytree. To further expand their database, they are asking for submissions of more 3-D data to be transformed into touchable objects.
Here’s a video clip showing how they made the machine and how it turns the data into solid objects.
The implications for marketing here are pretty big. For example, a company could basically “print” samples of products for internet users to touch when they are searching.
And the award for July’s cutest use of augmented reality mobile interaction goes to Dentsu, for this Asoberu T-Shirt (“Playable T-Shirt”).
It works with a dedicated phone app to allow you to have fun with the wearer and the worn. For example, with your smartphone you can make characters and motifs “pop” out of the t-shirt and then play with them on your screen. Alternatively shoot arrows at hearts or turn a girl into a funky deck-spinning DJ.
You can make people “fight” with anime-style power beams — and unscrupulous guys will no doubt soon find ways to embarrass girls wearing the t-shirt.
The video nicely illustrates the things you can do.
The models are Yumemi Nemu and Mirin Furukawa.
It is being sold exclusively via BEAMS in an initial series inspired by the anime Gindama and others. There are five tees at the moment, priced ¥4,200. The app, available for Android and iOS systems, is free.
While the technology itself isn’t new, we find the kawaii presentation irresistible.
Showcased at the recent Baby and Kids Expo at Tokyo Big Sight, Pioneer has developed a micro hologram printer which can produce 3D hologram photos of unborn babies to be used as commemorative gifts.
The quality of the images showing holograms of the expressions of the baby make it ideal as part of a gift set you might present to someone who has just given birth, or perhaps use in a card or email that announces a new arrival in a family to your friends.
The full-color printer is small, allowing you to duplicate holograms using computer graphics, photographs and writing.
It could be the kind of equipment that a maternity clinic has for offering patients a parting gift after a successful delivery. Alternatively it could be utilized when pregnant women get their early ultrasound scans, making for a nice format for parents to take away the first image they have of their child.
DigInfo made this report back in May, explaining how the technology works using only 3D data.
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”.
Panasonic has just launched a new service whereby you can get your very own uniquely designed camera.
The Design Simulator customizing service can be accessed via PanaSense, the maker’s e-commerce portal, and are limited to Lumix DMC－XS1 cameras only.
You can do all the designing online yourself, changing colors and patterns, adding images and stamps, and decorating the camera with text of your choice.
Here’s a masterpiece that we spent hours working on…
And here’s a somewhat better sample design (not by us).
For orders being taken until mid-May the cameras are set to arrive in late May. After that, Panasonic then anticipates having got the system well oiled enough to provide you with your very own customized shooter within two weeks from placing an order.
PanaSense already offers customizable designs for Panasonic Let’s note SX/NX laptop computers.
Japanese toilets are pretty sophisticated contraptions. From heated seats and “butt showers” to buttons where you can play sounds and music to preserve your modesty during noisy evacuations, foreign visitors never cease to be amazed by the tech and thinking that goes behind making that daily function a bit nicer to perform.
This is all the more surprising when you consider the rather uncivilized long oh-shaped hole-in-the ground that is the old-style Japanese toilet, a sort of open drain that even today greets desperate commuters in train station toilets… and is always certain to repel cowardly tourist no matter how badly they need to go.
Proving that there are still more ways to enhance that most functional of household items, Lixil is releasing three new Satis model toilets in spring 2013.
Using the My Satis Android app, toilet users will be able to control the Bluetooth-equipped commode with their smartphones, including flushing, lifting the toilet seat and so on.
You can make personal settings and play music through the toilet’s speakers, and also through storing your “usage history” in the toilet you can see on your device how much your electricity and water bills are going to be.
You can then set up a “toilet diary” to monitor your visits to the can and check on your health, complete with cute euphemistic symbols for what you managed to achieve on different days.
The new Satis toilets will be on sale from next February.
From emergency evacuation jackets and rescue carry bags, dog pedometers, and even canine communication translators (!?), the Japanese could at times be accused of taking their love of pets a bit too far.
Sure, there’s certainly a lot of strange pet accessories out there, from wigs to outlandish duck bill design dog muzzles that might have observers calling at least the fashion police, if not even the animal cruelty hotline.
But here’s one new innovation that is both a stroke of engineering genius as well as a practical tool to ease worried pet owners’ minds.
If you want to keep an eye on your pooch’s eating habits but don’t want to leave your desk, this Remoca Dog Food Bowl Camera set will be able to relay video of everything for you.
Equipped with sensors, as your dog approaches it switches on and films him or her getting their fill of nosh or water. If you are concerned about when and how much your pet is eating, you can keep an eye on the hungry pooch even from your office or when you are otherwise out of the house or busy.
The camera can be adjusted to change the angle it shows — but the movement is quiet and smooth so as not to distract your pet from their food.
You can even control it remotely to open up secret compartments with treats, record video for later viewing, or watch it on your phone on a special app. Hell, there’s even infrared in the camera so you can check up on your dog’s night time snacks!