Sega’s Eederu Sunaba is interactive sandbox with realtime projectors, height sensors

Written by: William on September 12, 2014 at 1:16 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | 10 Comments

Sega have created an interactive sandpit for kids. The Eederu Sunaba (translating literally as “Wow, appears! Sandbox”) uses projectors and special non-sticky sand so that kids can have fun playing god by re-modeling the landscape in any way they fancy. As they make hills, lakes and rivers with the sand, the projection mapping changes in realtime to match the shifting topography.

Sega plans to install the system in arcade game centers in Japan from this autumn, reports Nikkei Technology, and also in playroom facilities at showrooms for cars and houses, to keep the kids occupied while the grown-ups sort out the important purchase.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

The system above the sandbox has a senor that measures distance so it can detect the changing height of the sound and generate imagery according to the shapes. If, say, it detects a hole it will create a river or lake image, complete with swimming fish. When the player piles some sand into a mound the projection will make a mountain.

Judging from the videos, the system seems very fast and intuitive, and the colors are great. There are lots of cool gimmicks like the shadows of aircraft flying over the scenery and the seasons change too. It seems to have no trouble interacting with multiple players at once.

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

It also detects movement. It projects animal characters and when the player touches these, they respond as they move around the landscape. Current examples of the creatures are ladybugs and beetles, though surely the possibilities are nearly endless here. (Future ideas could be tie-ups with Disney, Sanrio or other character-driven franchises.)

sega interactive sand sandpit sandbox projector projection responsive colors make landscape eederu sunaba asobi arcade game system

There are two modes. “Suna Asobi” (sand play) is for playing around freely in the box while “Dekirukana” (I can do it) mode allows players to draw pictures according to various themes, which are shown on a display for the kids to imitate.

It’s not necessarily the first sand pit of its kind; there have been Kinect sandpits and augmented reality sandboxes before. However, this may well be the first fully commercial example of a system like this.

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Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker: Takara Tomy’s latest food cooking toy

Written by: Japan Trends on September 11, 2014 at 9:47 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Japan is a nation obsessed with food and also, so people say, childishness. And so it is only natural that the two things would be combined at some point. The result is cooking toys, which Takara Tomy in particular has been really pushing over the past three years.

The latest is the Okashina Tamago Mawashite Purin Egg Flan Maker, which allows you to cook egg flan just by moving a lever back and forth for two minutes.

okashina tamago mawashite mawashite purin flan egg maker toy japanese

Part a game, part a genuine way to make a dessert, the video promoting the product is frankly remarkable.

This cooking toy trend has been rolling out over the last couple of years now.

Takara Tomy started it off in 2012 with the Takara Tomy Gurefuru Chuchu, a kind of mini-blender attachment to make orange juice inside the fruit itself.

takara tomy gurefuru chuchu toy fruit juice maker

Just watch this video and you will see the instant appeal of the product!

Others then followed in the “Okashina” (literally “silly”) series, including the Takara Tomy Chupa Chups Ice Candy Maker and the Okashina Banana Juice Mixer.

takara tomy chupa chups ice candy maker toy

Invariably the products are all marketed with a suitable silly video, usually with an annoyingly catchy song and music. And sometimes dancing too.

Another recent example is the Maracas de Popcorn, which combines making popcorn with a musical instrument (yes, these are also maracas).

maracas de popcorn japan food cooking toy musical instrument

No surprise that there is also a funny video.

Besides the tone of the marketing, something common to most of the cooking toys is also that they do not require batteries or electricity for the most part, instead relying on a bit of elbow grease and the enthusiasm of kids. They are also actually very simple technologically but rely on the fun pop design, and the accompanying “action” (or even dance) to appeal to kids and parents.

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Robotic pets making a comeback in Japan with new models and upgrades

Written by: Japan Trends on August 27, 2014 at 5:54 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Robotic pets, also known as robo-pets (not to be confused with the actual Robopet), are making something of a return to the shelves of stores in Japan in a valiant effort to buck the trend of local toy manufacturers’ sales declining as the birth rate falls.

We all remember the days when Paro and AIBO first burst into our lives. Now such robotic and interactive animal toys are pretty standard. But let’s take a look at some of the new entries in the market and also take a trip down memory lane while we’re at it.

Back in the 1980′s Tomy (long before it merged with Takara) launched a successful range of robotic toys called Omnibot. They included such high-tech functions as an integrated cassette player (no sniggering at the back!) and could carry things for you if you were lazy enough. Omnibot’s reign in the hearts of kids and geeky teens was brief but it has made a bit of a comeback, at least in name. Takara Tomy have borrowed the brand for two recent new robo-pets.

The Omnibot Hello! MiP is a two-wheeled robot that can dance for you and even carry your drinks!

omnibot hello mip two-wheel robot

Things have certainly moved on since the original Omnibot. No cassettes in sight here. reThe Hello! MiP can move around by motion sensors responding to your movements — e.g. place your hand in front of it — as well as be controlled by your phone.

They also released the local Japan version of Zoomer, renaming it the Omnibot Hello! Zoomer, an interactive dalmatian that can understand 45 English and Japanese words.

omnibot hello zoomer dog robot

Takara Tomy’s awesome line of motion-activated samurai warrior were also christened the Omnibot Battroborg as a nod to the earlier toys.

In the late 1990′s we saw a more serious and forward-thinking application of home robo-pets with the Paro, the healing seal designed for the elderly and hospital patients who need some therapy from a cute companion.

But for many, the robotic pet will always be the AIBO, the massive hit for Sony (how it must dream of those days now) in the second half of the 1990′s.

It was rivaled by the Poo-chi in the early 2000′s, a collaboration between Hasbro and Sega.

This has also been updated with the Heart Energy Poochi, which Sega hopes will replicate some of the success of the earlier dog. Since our lives now have other devices in them, inter-device communication seems to be the trick the makers are playing now. In the Heart Energy Poochi’s case, it can interact with your Nintendo 3DS. And it goes without saying that he likes being stroked but will respond badly if you pull his tail.

sega toys poochi heart energy robot dog pet

Bandai also got in on the canine act a few years ago with the Smartpet Robot Dog, which lets you slot your iPod or iPhone into the dog’s head to make a face out of the screen. No animals were harmed in the development of this product!

bandai smartpet smart pet iphone ipod dog robot

Another classic in the genre is the Yume Neko Dream Cat by Sega Toys, which has very realistic internal sensors that respond to your touch. It started off as an interactive robotic cat, though it was followed by other animals like chicks, squirrels, puppies and rabbits.

The Yume Neko was given an update by Sega Toys recently as the Yume Neko Dream Cat Celeb, providing all the cute interaction of a feline friend without the hassle or mess. This is particularly important in Japan where many people living in apartments are not allowed by the landlord to own real pets. They turn to cat cafes and robots instead.

yume neko dream cat celeb therapy robot cat pet

Of course, this isn’t just domestic manufacturers. The plush toy Furby is also undergoing a bit of a revival here, with Takara Tomy distributing the new model from Hasbro that responds to English commands and has upgraded eyes.

It forms part of a post-2010 trend for “huggable” plush robotic toys, the most sophisticated of which are aimed at helping infants and older kids sleep. The Hug & Dream Mickey and Minnier were big hits, though they were preceded by Takara Tomy’s pioneering Issho ni Nenne “womb doll”, which helped babies get better sleep cycles.

issho ni nenne minnie mouse baby womb doll

And big surprise, this has also been re-launched fairly recently as three new Disney character and Pooh versions.

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Transformers, Anime in Disguise: Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot is an amazing six anime character combo!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

While the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie is shooting up the box office around the world (though not yet in Japan), it’s worth taking a look at a pretty spectacular local Japanese version. A veritable manga character Transformer!

Celebrating 80 years since the birth of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one of the manga-writing duo Fujiko Fujio, here is Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot! We don’t know how to begin describing this. It is made up of SIX Fujiko F Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto) characters that combine into one model. The “SF” in the name stands for both “sci-fi” and “sukoshi fushigi” (a bit mysterious), while “Chogattai” is a play on the name of the series (Chogokin) and means “super combo”.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

How’s your anime and manga character knowledge? How many of the “parts” can you name?

Okay, here’s a spoiler: The cast is made up Doraemon, Dorami (Doraemon’s sister), Perman, Korosuke (from Kiteretsu Daihyakka), Chinpui, and Gonsuke (from 21emon).

If you wondering what that big thing the Chogattai is carrying, it’s artist Fujimoto’s iconic red beret hat and pen. Another accessory included is the popular time machine from the Doraemon series.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

This rather strange but also rather awesome model/toy will get a release in late November.

Chogokin (literally “super alloy”) is a series of die-cast metal toys and models that first appeared in the late 1970′s. It’s pretty geekily Japanese — after all, who names a series after a fake material?! It is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. It’s the 40th anniversary of the model series owned by parent company Bandai, who now release the series through its Tamashii arm.

In recent years Chogokin has only been known for superior scale models of bullet trains, GX-64 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and other modes of transport. However, of late we have seen an incredible Chogokin Hello Kitty there are more original releases to come, it seems. Look out for a Chogokin model based on the iconic Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamoto!

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Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot Model celebrates 40th anniversary of Sanrio character

Written by: Japan Trends on February 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

It’s hard to believe that Sanrio’s most successful creation and Japan’s most famous cat is 40 years old!

It’s true, Hello Kitty turns 40 this year and to celebrate Sanrio is teaming with Bandai to offer a special Chogokin model version of the feline character.

This isn’t just a random collaboration. Popy’s Chogokin models are also 40 this year and while the two series typically attract different kinds of fans, there’s nothing like an innovative pairing like this to inspire a new generation of fans.

Behold the Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot.

chogokin hello kitty robot model bandai sanrio tamashii nations

Kitty is of course actually meant to be British, which the official video for the toy references at the start. The toy she drops in the pond is from Mazinger Z, the manga and anime which featured the fictitious material chogokin (“super alloy”) and was the genesis for the series of die-cast metal robot and character toys.

The idea is that Kitty updated into a Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot by a fairy as a reward for being honest. The new Kitty can swim underwater (“Dive Mode”), fly in the sky (“Flight Mode”) and even do battle with black cats (“Fight Mode”) with a powerful “Robot Punch”.

chogokin hello kitty robot model bandai sanrio tamashii nations

While she isn’t an actual robot — sorry, you have to make her move yourself — the attention to detail is impressive, not least all the functions (the aforementioned “Robot Punch” and changing eyes), plus there’s even a mini Kitty who sits inside the head as the “pilot” — just twist Kitty’s ribbon to open up the capsule!

chogokin hello kitty robot model bandai sanrio tamashii nations

The Chogokin Hello Kitty Robot Model will be released in late June.

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Bandai Hako Vision: A mini projection mapping theatre in your hand

Written by: Japan Trends on February 6, 2014 at 11:03 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

Projection mapping has really taken off in Japan.

Recently we have seen Tokyo Station being transformed in a video spectacle, as well as the Yokohama Odyssey event at a historical dockyard, and even Kyary Pamyu Pamyu turn Tokyo Tower into an interactive digital theme park.

bandai hako vision light box projection mapping

Now you can have projection mapping on Tokyo landmarks in your hand with the Hako Vision by Bandai. It uses a special app on your handheld device to conjure up a video spectacle courtesy of Ryotaro Muramatsu (Naked Inc.).

bandai hako vision light box projection mapping

There are two versions: Tokyo Hikari Vision (at Tokyo Station) and Karakuri (at the Tokyo National Museum). Tokyo Hikari Vision is a fairytale spectacle, while Karakuri is a lively trip through time, filled with historical motifs.

bandai hako vision light box projection mapping

But you don’t need all the wizardry and technical know-how of real projection mapping to operate this light show. All you need to do is read the code on the box and then set your device on top, turning the box into a mini theatre on your hand.

bandai hako vision light box projection mapping

But it’s not all just contemporary digital technology. Actually Bandai is making a nice rift here on something quite old. Shokugan are kinds of “small world” toys where you would get a box with a toy and candy in it. These are still popular today and you can find a corner of a supermarket with sets of toys and sweets. Bandai sees the Hako Vision in this vein and as such has included a piece of candy with the box.

bandai hako vision mobile suit gundam

And for the anime fans, there are also these two Mobile Suit Gundam versions, available in either RX-78-2 Gundam or MS-06S ZAKU II models, currently set for release in the spring.

bandai hako vision mobile suit gundam

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Koppu no Fuchiko Capsule Toy: Japan’s Pop Culture Obsession with Small Girls

Written by: Japan Trends on February 4, 2014 at 11:21 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | 1 Comment

The Koppu no Fuchiko (“Fuchiko on the edge of the cup”) by Kitan Club and Katsuki Tanaka was first released in 2012 as a Gashapon capsule toy. In a nutshell, it’s a series of cute figurines of an Office Lady (OL) in various poses.

Doesn’t sound like much to make a fuss about, right? Well, if you think that then you are obviously not a Japanese consumer!

koppu no fuchiko cup office lady figure japan capsule toy chibi tiny girl

It proved a bit huge hit for Kitan Club, who quickly followed up with other capsule toy series in 2013. And then came the merchandise. Now there are notepads, cups, t-shirts, bags, socks… Fuchiko is everywhere!

Who is buying Fuchiko’s goodies? We thought geeky guys at first but then we came across female consumers in their thirties who were avidly purchasing all the kawaii Fuchiko stuff they could lay their hands on.

Japan has a bit of an obsession with “small” stuff, especially girls.

koppu no fuchiko cup office lady figure japan capsule toy chibi tiny girl

There is plenty of chibi (“runt”) in manga and anime, and typically means the kind of SD drawings of girls popular in various forms of otaku culture. It has even spawned its own sub-genre of “shrinking girl” erotic manga (ero manga) called Koonago (*NSFW*).

Traditionally one of the archetypes of beauty was the hattoushin bijin, a girl with a head one-eighth the size of her body. This is still used as a compliment for certain fashion models with doll-like proportions.

koppu no fuchiko cup office lady figure japan capsule toy chibi tiny girl

If you don’t live in Japan and can’t go in search of Fuchiko in the country’s Gashapon capsule vending machines, Fuchiko is also now available as a seven-figure set via JapanTrendShop.

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Christmas 2013 Gift Guide from Japan

Written by: Japan Trends on December 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

We have long ago run out of those “standard” Japanese gifts that we can get away with sending out relatives back home. You know the ones, right? Green tea. Chopsticks. Sake cups. And so on. What happens when you run out of ideas?

Well, if you look around, though, there are loads of cool gadgets, designer accessories, toys and household items that will make great and unexpected gifts.

The follow is just a very small sampling of the range of lifestyle and tech products available from the JapanTrendShop.

Gakken Worldeye

gakken world eye

Learning can be fun and awe-inspiring, as Gakken is well aware. That’s why they created this remarkable Worldeye, a dome screen that offers you a realistic visual experience of the world. Discover science and geography like you never knew you could with this projection globe, featuring high quality images of world altitudes, seismic faults, forestation, bird migration, wind patterns and more.

Deoest Odor Eliminating Deodorant Underwear

inodore deoest smell odor eliminate underwear

Be smelly no more with these Deoest Odor Eliminating Deodorant Underwear, which has been designed to kill some 95% of gas and sweat and other foul odors. It might look like an ordinary pair of boxers but the Deoest Odor Eliminating Deodorant Underwear by Inodore has nano-level ceramic and metallic ions that fight and break down stinky particles. A life-saver!

Monos Plugo Extension Lead

plugo monos extension lead

This has been around for a few years now but it still looks great, and super practical too! Product designer Masayuki Kurakata knows how important it is to consider even something so banal as an extension lead, and that’s why he came up with the Plugo by Monos, a donut-shaped three-plug receptacle and extension lead.

Mocoro Robotic Fur Ball Vacuum Cleaner

mocoro vacuum cleaner fur ball robot

This “microfiber hop ball” is one of the funnest in the recent trend for robotic vacuum cleaners in Japan. The Mocoro might sound like a bizarre but sophisticated piece of technology — a colorful “fur” ball that rolls automatically around home cleaning — but actually its beauty lies in its simplicity. All you need to do is clean the furry cover and then let the ball do the rest!

Nanoblock 2014 Nengajo Horse New Year Card

nanoblock nengajo 2014 new year post card

Not for Christmas per se, but you can celebrate New Year in a unique way with this. The Japanese send each other New Year postcards rather than Xmas cars. These are called nengajo and can be rather generic, though a lot of people write or even paint their own. Now you can be really unusual with this Nanoblock 2014 Nengajo Horse New Year Card, that uses the popular micro blocks to build a horse and bird model. (2014 is the Year of the Horse in Japan.)

Hybrid Hard iPhone5 Protective Film

hybrid hard iphone 5 protective case film

This is for the gadget-lovers out there. This Hybrid Hard iPhone5 Protective Film is getting great reviews locally. Smashed screen? Scratched display? These will be problems no longer with this Hybrid Hard iPhone5 Protective Film. The Hybrid Hard is easy to apply and keep clean, and is made from Acier, a UV cure type hard coating solvent, combined with a transparent SHORAYAL film. Highly resistant to abrasion and shocks, it also protects against pesky fingerprints.

USB Cup Warmer, Cooler Holder by Thanko

usb cup holder heater cooler

Another gadget, this time from Thanko, who know a thing or two about unusual gizmos. Keep yourself powered up for work whether it’s winter (or summer) with the USB Cup Warmer, Cooler Holder. Just connect your computer or other device’s USB port to the cup holder and it will maintain a cool or hot temperature perfect for continuing to enjoy your drink no matter how long that presentation takes you to finish. After all, when it’s winter and you’re keeping yourself warm with a hot cup of tea, the last thing you want is it to cool down. And likewise, in the summer, you want a drink that stays chilled.

Pop Up Pirate Hello Kitty

pop up pirate hello kitty

For lovers (young and old) of kawaii and Japan’s favorite cat character, this Pop Up Pirate Hello Kitty is based on the 1975 Pop-up Pirate toy where you have to place swords in the barrel until the pirate jumps up. This time the buccaneer is super cute, as Kitty-chan always is!

Heck, if this isn’t enough for you, check out all the other Hello Kitty items there are!

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Not just for kids! Gashapon capsule toys thriving in new designs

Written by: Mina on November 4, 2013 at 10:56 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

It used to be that Gashapon capsule toys were ostensibly just for kids who wanted to collect and play with small toy items and character figures from their favorite anime, games and comic book series. Of course, there was always another group of geeky adult collectors, too, who had a little bit more freedom to use as much as money they wanted to spend on Gashapon, in pursuit of finding the rarest character. But now Gashapon are for everyone, even office workers.

Gashapon are sold in small plastic capsules that you buy from special “crank” vending machines, usually to be found in rows around certain kinds of stores, especially electronics stores. The world of Gashapon, as with many other toy products, has certainly evolved from having its sales rely in large part on already popular entities in the market to finding and promoting its own original toys.

Two series from Kitan Club, Dogeza Straps and Fuchiko on Cups have gained popularity among office workers for obvious reasons. While Dogeza Straps show the resilient spirit of salarymen posing in the ultimate physical position for begging called dogeza (pay close attention to his face too!), Fuchiko is dressed up in the typical office uniform worn by many female workers, especially those who work as receptionists and secretaries at giant corporations.

capsule_toys_cellphone_straps

Kitan Club has released several different versions of Fuchiko, but this is their first series. There is a distinctly moe flavor to Fuchiko, wouldn’t you say?

gashapon capsule toy moe character fuchiko

gashapon capsule toy moe character fuchiko

Bandai’s smartpants might be the last thing you’d want for your phone, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have another one or two sets of underwear in the closet, right?

capsule_toys_smartphone

This past summer, they released a Mt. Fuji version, which nicely coincided with Japan’s tallest peak being awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

bandai_capsule_toys_smartpants

From Bandai, there is one more we just can’t overlook. It’s a key chain that lets you openly pick the nose in public. The series title might be too obvious but is well marketed: Hojirerun-desu – or “You can pick this nose.”

bandai_capsule_toy_key_chain

Takara Tomy, another toy giant, has recently established their own capsule toy brand called Panda no ana. They have released two series so far: Same-furai – or fried sharks and “ZooZooZoo.”

takara_tomy_capsule_toys

takara_tomy_animal_figures

Just remember. The point of these capsule toys is not to ask about the point. It’s not only the product that you purchase with 200 yen — but the thrill that comes from the act of turning the crank of the vending machine, knowing that inside the capsule might just be that extra special toy in the series you have spent months looking for… or just another copy of the same figure you already have in your bulging collection.

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