Archive for the ‘Tech/web/mobile’ Category

R2-D2 toy keeps fans company and food fresh

Monday, March 30th, 2015

R2-D2, the eccentric cylindrical droid from “Star Wars,” has helped save the galaxy time and time again, but now he will help you save electricity.

Mobile gadget company Hamee will be releasing a 10 x 7 cm version of the robot to keep in your refrigerator. He will greet you when you open the door, and panic, if you leave it open.

“Living alone can get a little bleak. We wanted to create something that could welcome you back home at the end of the day,” explains Atsushi Yamashita of the product management team in the promo video.

Although this mini R2-D2 may not be able to project holograms, hack computers or extinguish fires like we’ve seen on the big screen, the company has made sure he looks and sounds exactly like the original by receiving direction from Lucasfilm. It responds to light, but pressing the button on his head works too.

It has 15 types of beeps, including some rare outbursts that you may catch if you are lucky enough. A fan may recognize R2-D2 “lines” from specific scenes in the movies.

Pre-sale orders for the R2-D2 Talking Fridge Gadget are already available, but its official release will be April 30, 2015, at ¥4,320 — just in time for the Star Wars Exhibition, scheduled to take place at Roppongi from April 29 to June 28, 2015.

Will Line put the brakes on Uber with its taxi app?

Monday, March 9th, 2015

line-taxi-app

In the not-so-distant future, it might be considered quaint to hail a taxi with your hand instead of using a smartphone app.

Line Corporation, after expanding its mobile business with game apps and online purchases, is expanding its smartphone messaging platform with a new service called Line Taxi for users to book cabs in Tokyo via its app.

Launched in January, users simply type their address into the app and, with GPS, the taxi’s dispatch time appears on the map. The taxi ride is automatically paid for using a pre-registered credit card, so there is no need to worry about having cash on hand. Line hopes the app will be useful for people who don’t want to fight over cabs during rush hour.

Competitor Uber, a taxi booking app that’s already available in 55 countries, already expanded its service to Tokyo last spring and has many similar features to Line Taxi.

However, along with Uber’s global expansion has come a series of huge bumps in the road, including an Uber driver being accused of raping a passenger in India in December 2014, and in the same month in Australia, Uber was harshly criticized for jacking up prices during the hostage situation in downtown Sydney. (They quickly apologized for the snafu.)

Uber has also come under fire after testing out its services in Fukuoka. The government told the company to suspend its pilot project as the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry believes that the smartphone application service likely violates the Road Transportation Law prohibiting unlicensed taxi services.

Although Line Taxi doesn’t have the premium service of luxury cars like Uber, the face that Line’s partner is Nihon Kotsu, Japan’s largest taxi company, means there might not be a big gap between the two. More than 3,000 taxis will be connected to Line, and the company plans to include more than 23,000 taxis for its service nationwide.

Currently Line Taxi is only available in Japanese and the fare has to be paid with a Japanese credit card, but the app is expected to become more foreigner-friendly in the future and expand coverage throughout Japan. The company first said that they wanted to take their taxi service global since previewing it last October.

So what’s it going to be? Will you get in Line?

YouTube’s #DearMe campaign looks back to look forward

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

With International Women’s Day right around the corner, YouTube launched its #DearMe campaign, encouraging women to reflect on their past and post video messages with advice to their younger selves. The project became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter within an hour after its launch.

YouTube recruited a range of women from a variety of countries, backgrounds and professions, including blogger Grace Helbig, actress Felicia Day and the band Pentatonix. The selection also included many women living in Japan. Here are a few of the #DearMe videos highlighted by YouTube.

Bilingirl — YouTuber

Subscribers:  383,324

“As I lived each day of my life, trying new things and gaining new experiences, I discovered that there was more to me than just small eyes and a flat face. I learned that confidence comes from my accomplishments and not my appearances.”

“The best make-up is a girl’s smile, so don’t forget to smile!”


Rin Rin Doll — model, blogger, TV personality

Subscribers: 5,570

“Your achievements aren’t defined by other people. Wear what you want to wear. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of obstacles coming your way — you’re going to be OK. You’re strong, and I believe in you.”

CONTINUE READING about YouTube's #DearMe campaign →

Rewinding some of Japan’s top YouTubers

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

At the end of 2014, YouTube took a look back at some of the fun, freaky and unforgettable videos that went viral over the past year. Titled “YouTube Rewind,” the official retrospective (which has 50 million views) gave special recognition to dozens of online personalities, including Kid President and Jenna Marbles, who YouTube decided were the top of class in 2014.

Japan was well represented with 14 YouTubers joining the global ranks. Their talent ranges from makeup tutorials and video game walkthroughs to clever pranks and English lessons. Without much further ado, here are the top YouTubers from featured in Rewind 2014:

1. Aichi Ono (7,000+ subscribers)

  • Aichi Ono, aka Spinboy, has a pretty thick skull. He is a performer that does dances and tricks while spinning on his head. He also gives behind-the-scenes looks at breakdancing practices.

2. Bilingirl (300,000+)

3. Hajime (900,000+)

4. Hikakin (1,475,000+)

  • Human beatboxer Hikakin has drummed up more 300,000,000 views on YouTube. He usually makes beatbox covers of hit songs including Disney’s “Let It Go” and even collaborates with pop stars like Ariana Grande.

CONTINUE READING about popular YouTubers in Japan

J-blip: cat montage

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

If you’ve been keeping your eyes open, you might have caught a glimpse of the “cat montage” meme that has been spreading through Japan and beyond.

The gist: A human draws a set of cartoon eyes for its furry friend and creates a funny collage.

Credit for this simple yet viral idea goes to Twitter user Shirotamaaaa, who sparked the trend in early November. His original post has been retweeted more than 4,500 times.

Spilling over into Instagram and YouTube, the meme is also gaining traction overseas.

The joke has even spread further into the animal kingdom with pictures of dogs, rabbits and hamsters.

Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! Ora! #猫モンタージュ

Pro tip from cat montage experts: snap it when your feline is sleeping.

J-blip: Kokoro Scanner knows what’s in your heart of hearts

Friday, October 17th, 2014

The recently released Kokoro Scanner (“mind scanner”), from Takara Tomy, is attracting attention with its simple yet clever concept.

The head-mounted toy supposedly monitors small heart rate changes and flags fibbers with a colored light system. A green light means you’re in the clear; yellow means you’re only telling half the truth; red means guilty as charged. The fact that user can’t see what color the light is just adds to the fun.

Retailing at a mere ¥2,700, this is clearly a poor man’s lie detector. Does it work? We’ve yet to test it, but our professional advice is, IT’S A TOY, so Truth or Dare? Yes. Court of law? Uh, no.

The Kokoro Scanner goes on sale Oct. 30 and can be ordered on Takara Tomy website.

J-blip: You TOO can be a ‘konbini’ manager of your dreams

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Ever have the urge to shriek “Irasshaimase!” and microwave meals for salarymen? You’re in luck as you can now control a Japanese convenience store right in the palm of your hands.

“Konbini Dream” lets users manage a typical Japanese konbini — complete with bowing employees and cheap snacks. Players can hire workers, rearrange the layout of the store and decide which items are up for sale for your anime-inspired customers with big eyes and stubby legs.

In addition, players receive experience points for every successful purchase. After leveling up, part-time workers and new merchandise become available, including seasonal items for Halloween and Christmas.

“Konbini Dream” was released for Nintendo 3DS on Sept. 24 as a downloadable title and only costs the price of a few pieces of convenience store chicken at just ¥800. Perhaps in the future this will be how Lawson, Sunkus, et al. train their staff?

Go to Arc System Works’ website to learn more about the game.

My little pork industry can’t be this cute: ‘Pig Farm’ and ‘Slaughterhouse’ smartphone games

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Is making a game butchering cute little pigs kimo-kawaii or just real talk? JOE Inc.’s “Yōtonjō” (“Pig Farm”) is a pig-raising simulation game with a predictable outcome. After all the vaccinating, poop scooping and keeping track of each porker’s picky eating habits, you send ‘em off, and not not on vacation.

“That’s how it works — they’re pigs after all!” The game’s copy reminds us.

 Left: Isn't it only right that each one would have its own preferences? They're pigs, after all. Devote yourself to their care. Then give thanks for the pork! Right: A chance a day! Get rare pigs in the piglet hunt! The better the pig, the higher the price it will fetch! Compete with pig farmers from around the country!

Left: Isn’t it only right that each one would have its own preferences? They’re pigs, after all. Devote yourself to their care. Then give thanks for the pork! Right: A chance a day! Get rare pigs in the piglet hunt! The better the pig, the higher the price it will fetch! Compete with pig farmers from around the country!

Here’s a look inside my pig pen:

YOUTON PIG PEN

I like how that one is sleeping with his face planted in his food. Pigtastic!

The color of the pig-pen floor is different on the right because I applied a sawdust coating to help the pigs grow faster. Where do you think I got that sawdust? I bought it, of course. Did I have enough points right off the bat for that? Of course not! “Pig Farm” is perfect for short bursts (those moments of time between checking your Twitter and Facebook at the bus stop, for example) but if you’re busy and you just want to see what kind of goofy pigs you can raise as fast as possible, or expand your pen faster, the in-game store is more than happy to take your money. Farmers who want to invest can buy points in increments ranging from 2,000 for ¥100 to 200,000 for ¥5,800.

Here are some of the fine specimens I managed to raise so far:

CONTINUE reading about JOE's "Pig Farm" app

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