Meet Aiko Chihira. She speaks Japanese and wears a kimono. She greets customers and conveys information.
But Aiko’s not Japanese. She’s not even human.
She’s an android made by Toshiba and now she works at Mitsukoshi, the high-end department store in Nihonbashi.
Unfortunately she can’t converse or respond to questions, unlike the more interactive Nao humanoid robot, currently serving Mitsubishi UFJ bank customers, or Pepper, the friendly droid greeting visitors to Softbank stores.
But she blinks, bows, moves her (sorry, its) mouth and lips. She is programmed with human-like facial expressions and can offer a looped vocal guidance to department store customers.
For example, if you want to hear about the layout or an event, this robot will tell you.
She can even communicate in sign language, so at least the uncanny valley is barrier free for the deaf.
Toshiba describes her as the “quiet type” who is “happy to help people”. Something tells us there might be some male fantasies at play here…
Find Aiko on the ground floor of Mitsukoshi. Sadly, she’s not a permanent addition. She will only be “working” at the store on April 20th and April 21st. She is a promotional feature as part of a longer Toshiba event at the seventh floor Hajimarino Cafe from April 22nd to May 5th.
Nail art is big in Japan.
So is Purikura, the “print club” photo booths where you can take inventive shots with your friends.
Combine the two and you should have a recipe for success. At least, that’s what Sega (who originally developed Purikura) is hoping with the Nail Puri (Nail Sticker Print), opening in Ikebukuro March 27th-29th.
Girls (or guys) can go to the booth to customize their nail design from over 1,500 designs. As far as we can tell, there is no charge or fee to try the prototype machine.
There’s even a free smartphone app so you can customize your choice of design using your own patterns, photos and text. Then you take the final data to the nail art printer and get your nails “printed” the way you want them.
Strictly speaking, the booth only prints stickers, which you then put on your nails, rather than genuinely painting onto them. Check out the official Twitter account for examples of nail art stickers you can make.
But perhaps printing directly onto your nails is the next step? We all remember that awesome scene from the original Total Recall movie where the woman paints her nails electronically in less than a second? Well, we’re not far off that now. After all, Japan has had “digital mirror” tryvertizing technology for years.
The dream futuristic nail art maker would be kind of like a 3D printer meets Purikura.
You can find the Nail Puri booth at Sega GiGO game center in Ikebukuro on the sixth and seven floors. If it’s a hit, no doubt we can expect to see more of the technology soon.
Ten types of stylish wearable smart accessories designed by current female college students have been unveiled. The designs are the results of a project run in partnership between Recruit Technologies’ Advanced Technology Lab and Rikejo, a service for supporting “scientific girls” by the publisher Kodansha.
The designs were themed around making female-friendly lifestyle gadgets, to include such functions as morning wake-up alarms, schedule reminders, friend notifications, compasses, timers, last train alerts, and so on.
At first glance, these designs may look more fashionable than overtly technological; on the surface just bracelets, necklaces, hair bands and more. But they are all meant to integrate certain wearable devices functions.
The project saw the prototypes created within six months, with the designers hailing from a range of colleges such as Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, Hosei University and Aoyama Gakuin University.
The local obsession with females in science took a hit with the Haruko Obokata stem cell scandal last year but that still hasn’t stopped institutions trying to promote women in lab coats who can inject some glamor into the sterile world of academia. Earlier this year, for example, the University of Tokyo released an encyclopedia of beautiful female students. Obokata was the pinnacle of a brief flurry of interest in Rikejo — “scientist women” — though there is a precedent. A few years there was a similar trend for so-called Reki-jo, female history buffs.
[Image via FashionSnap.com]
Yesterday we introduced the iDoll, currently being showcased by ad agency Hakuhodo at SXSW Interactive Festival.
This unique in-store promotional tool is a “machine that delivers farmers’ honesty” and takes the produce section of the supermarket into the future.
Jointly developed by Suda Lab and Hakuhodo i-studio’s HACKist creative lab, the Talkable Vegetables are, perhaps not surprisingly, a world first. The voice of the farmers that grew the produce actually tells the potential consumer where the veggies are from and what is special about them.
How does it work?
By turning the voltage differential between the moisture in humans and vegetables into an audio signal, just [by] picking up a vegetable, customers initiate an interaction in which various messages can be conveyed.
This tech makes it possible for:
(1) Customers to confirm a farm product’s safety and trustworthiness by listening to the information from the farmer.
(2) Customers to get a sense of the farming environment, and the origins and values of the produce at the point of sale, no matter how removed from agricultural regions.
(3) Customers to enjoy a fun, next-generation experiences of vegetables themselves becoming part of the retail system.
Vegetables with personality? We’re not sure if this is scary or brilliant.
Clearly the infrastructure required — recording the farmers’ messages individually for each crop, special speakers set up to deliver the sound to the holder — will surely limit the application of the system, but this is one neat way to bridge the growers and the consumers. Traceability has also been a big issue in Japan of late, following a spate of food scandals in 2013. In certain supermarkets it is common to see signage and labelling directly naming the farmer and farm where the produce came from.
The system has already been tested successfully in Hug Mart, a store in Sapporo, Hokkaido.
Another exhibit at the Hakuhodo SXSWi booth is the award-winning Rice Code, an “smartphone app that turns scenes of all kinds into a sales floor”. You point the camera of your smartphone at a large piece of rice paddy art. The installed dedicated app then recognizes the art and takes the user to an e-commerce site where they can buy rice.
KDDI au and Hakuhodo create Sync Dinner, a “virtual Christmas Eve restaurant experience” for couples separated by distanceWritten by: William on December 23, 2014 at 9:08 am | In LIFESTYLE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment
In Japan, Christmas Eve is not a time for church — it’s a time for couples. Restaurants in cities are packed with pairs of diners enjoying expensive, luxury courses.
But not everyone has a special someone on this romantic day, while others are separated from their partner due to work or other commitments. Fortunately, au has stepped in with Hakuhodo to create a one-day-only restaurant for those couples who cannot meet face-to-face on December 24th.
Syn Dinner is a virtual way to connect “two distant hearts.”
Two couples have been selected who live 400km apart.
The couples reside apart in Tokyo and Osaka, but thanks to au’s realtime screen displays set up in hotel rooms in the respective cities they will be able to enjoy a virtual Christmas Eve meal.
While the technology still has limitations and there will certainly be no post-dinner “dessert” — surely part of the draw for many couples! — participants will at least be able to eat and talk as if they are in the same restaurant.
As au say, “for long-distance lovers, this interactive dinner enables ‘heart-to-heart connection’ by sharing the same time and space together”.
Motion sensors sync your toast. The same waiter will seem to be traveling the 400km to serve both parties the dinner (we suspect twins are employed). You can blow through the display to blow out the Christmas cake candles served during the meal, and also add digital “decoration” to your face or hands via the display. And finally you can even have a romantic photo taken of the two of you “together” at the restaurant.
Unfortunately, au is no longer taking applications. The two couples already chosen will be sitting down to their long-distance meal in two separate sessions from 5pm on December 24th. Still, it would be neat if this kind of system became a permanent feature of certain restaurants and hotels in the near future.
The au Unlimited Future Laboratory is phone carrier KDDI’s experimental division for creating what could turn out to be the gadgets we all use in the future (or not, as the case may be).
Here are some of the fruits of their research and development.
The iCrout gives the nimble fingertips of a professional musician. You choose a track online and then install the performance data. Then put on the iCrout gloves and no matter you natural ability, the gadget will let you play to a high level. (It reminds us of the “face stimulation” experiments of Daito Manabe.) Following the logic, will there be any need for such a thing as genuine talent ever again?
This is a kind of eye mask but it doesn’t just shut out light. Happy Coming is supposed to detect brain waves and heart beat frequency, and match these with appropriate music, illumination effects, and even aroma. All of this is designed to induce a better sleep session
Happy Coming gives you around 20 minutes of restful non-REM sleep, before encouraging you to wake up. In other words, an ideal daytime nap.
Not a commercial product yet but boy, do we want it to be one soon! Given the nuance of the English, though, they would have to change the name or there may be guys queuing up to purchase what they hope is a wet dream generator!
With Tsugi-ai (Pour for Each Other) you can have a drink with someone who’s not physically there with you using your phone. In Japan it is polite to pour beer into the glass of your drinking partner. So the Tsugi-ai detects when the other person’s beverage runs low and then pours the drink can to give them a fill-up.
Kokoro Yoho Mask
Another mask here, the Kokoro Yoho Mask (Mind Forecast Mask) is an “office communication tool” that helps you read between the lines of what colleagues are saying or how they really feel. It visualizes the wearer’s feelings like weather forecast symbols on the outside of the mask.
The Totsugeki Zukyun lets you show when you fall head over heels with someone passing by. We’ve all walked by the boy or girl who just makes your heart go aflutter. But not all of us are brave enough to say something to them. This device lets you communicate how you feel. The doors pop open and out bursts a “heart”, while at the same time it makes a cute noise and releases a pleasant aroma — and even sends a message from your phone.
Surely this will be a must-have for weddings or group dates.
Check other a.U.F.L. prototypes. That are lots more!
What would a melody from a dying star sound like?
ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is a state-of-the-art radio telescope developed and operated by 20 countries and territories across Asia, Europa and America.
Connecting 66 parabola antennas deployed in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, ALMA works as a giant radio telescope with a diameter comparable to the size of the JR Yamanote Line. It detects faint radio waves emanated by distant celestial objects to study the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets. Obtaining a clue to the origin of life is another goal of ALMA.
In 2011, ALMA observed radio waves from a dying star R Sculptoris. Made in collaboration with the Tokyo and New York-based agency PARTY, the resulting ALMA Music Box utilized this data, translating the 70 different radio images onto 70 musical discs, one for each frequency. In other words, the music for this music box is supplied by a red giant star 1,5000 light years away, a melody from a soon-to-be supernova.
As the makers told Wired:
As the disc spins around the player, little teeth pluck the holes and emit a twinkling sound. It sounds sweet, like a lullaby coming from the mobile above a baby’s crib. But there’s a sadness to it, too, perhaps because we know the star is in the process of dying out forever. As Masashi Kawamura, co-founder of PARTY, puts it: “It’s made to sound like a requiem for the star in a way.”
ALMA Music Box is a new kind of visualization project to try to find a way to make the uses of the ALMA telecope more accessible to non-astrophysicists. It is now on display at 21 21 Design Sight’s “The Fab Mind” exhibition until February 1st.
Impenetrable science projects in Japan often come up with very sophisticated ways to “advertise” their achievements to the public. NIMS (National Institute for Material Science), for example, has made a great series of videos called “The Power of Materials”.
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.
Wearable gadgetry just got more functional, thanks to Lotte, the candy maker who has come up with the Rhymi-Kamu chewing gum bite counter earphones.
The Korean company, also based in Japan, developed the earphones with medical experts as a publicity stunt for its chewing gum but they genuinely work.
Using ear sensors, the Rhythmi-Kamu (“kamu” is Japanese for “bite/chew”) detects movements in the ear canal. These are created when you chew and the more frequent the movements, the more you are chewing.
Okay, so what? Isn’t this just another health device or life log gadget? Well, this is cool not because it measures how much you are chewing. It’s neat because you can then essentially use your “bite” to control things.
By having your Rhythmi-Kamu earphones connected to your phone, an app could potentially monitor your bites to know when you want to change a music track, turn off the audio, and so on. E.g. two quick bites could be the signal to stop the music.
As part of the promotion, Lotte paid to have some idols from HKT48 try the Rhythmi-Kamu earphones out.
The bad news is this great idea isn’t an actual product (yet). But who knows, maybe one day in the future chewing will count for something. For now, Lotte is leaning the earphones to universities and research institutes for use in studies.