Archive for November, 2011

DesignTide Tokyo 2011

Friday, November 4th, 2011

As it does annually DesignTide Tokyo gave us a peek at prototypes, celebrated innovation and showed us how elegant ideas are worth their weight in gold.

Click on the thumbnails below to see what turned our heads.

Photos by Mio Yamada

Japan Inc. puts on its social game face

Friday, November 4th, 2011

While companies have been advertising within social networking games like Farmville for awhile now, it seems the next evolutionary step for companies is to create their own games for SNS. Indeed, in recent weeks we’ve witnessed three big Japanese corporations launch their own games free of charge on Facebook, indicating that this area might see some significant development in the months to come.

Probably the most impressive of the three new game releases was Toyota’s Social Network Racer, a pro racing game in which users compete against each other on a virtual track. You can soup up your ride by racking up points, but the ultimate goal is to win a ticket to the Tokyo Motor Show. Made to promote Toyota’s FT-86 II Concept model, which is due to be unveiled at the show in December, a billboard above the track advertises the new model. The graphics for the game are pretty impressive, but unfortunately it takes awhile to load and you’ll need a high spec computer to run it.

Though Toyota’s game is probably more engaging over a longer period of time, games such as  Toshiba’s Smart Community Game are more immediately gratifying. Linking to your Facebook page via Toshiba’s Smart Community YouTube channel, the game simply involves dragging and dropping necessary resources onto photos of your friends. Launched on Oct. 20, the game aims to advertise the fact that the company have their finger in many pies and these industries are represented by the different resources players supply to friends. Its fresh futuristic look is uncluttered by excessive amounts of overly technical information, but allows interested users to easily go deeper and discover more about the company. Unfortunately game play, though simple, is not really that engaging and we found ourselves bored after a couple of tries.

Which brings us to Honda’s new Insight Battle Janken Survival. Combining the simple game of janken (rock, scissors, paper) with impressive looking graphics, players are pitted against other Facebook users for real-time matches. We really loved that though it looked really sleek, it didn’t take ages to download, and we liked the way the game transformed us into a cool character utilizing our Facebook profile photo. The more you win, the higher your ranking, and the highest ranking player gets to win a Honda Insight Exclusive car. Even if you get bored of playing janken, the carrot of a free car alone is enough to get players totally hooked.

More ways to try before you buy

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

In the market for ... ? Ocarina lets potential buyers road-test appliances.

Not sure if you need a fancy single-serve coffee maker in your kitchen or if a Roomba scooting around would freak out the dog? Now you can try out expensive home appliances before buying them at Ocarina Rental. Products include the vacuuming robot Roomba, Dyson’s bladeless fan and Gopan, the briskly selling breadmaker that uses rice instead of flour.

The basic rental period is five days and prices range from about ¥2,000 to ¥5,000. Rental can be extended for as long as two months. There is no deposit, but unlike most online shopping in Japan, the only way to pay is by credit card. The delivery driver checks your ID with your first delivery.

Users say they like the service not only to see if, say, the homemade bread is good and easy to make but also to see how well the breadmaker will fit on their kitchen counter. One commenter on the site said she had rented the breadmaker to see if the sound it makes grinding up the rice would be too noisy for a small apartment.

It’s not all cooking and cleaning — there are a few tech toys on the takeout menu, too. The Parrot quadrocopter, a remote-control styrofoam hovercraft piloted by iPhone or iPad, is coming soon. Eyeclops night-vision goggles will also be available later this month, too.

While detailed specs for all products are listed on the site, one thing not listed is the purchase price. The fact that some products can be purchased is buried in the FAQs. The focus is on the trying, not the buying.

Continue reading about trying before you buy →


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