Archive for the ‘Tech/web/mobile’ Category

Today’s J-blip: robot-made inari-zushi

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

While the nation’s robots might not have been up to the task of nuclear-diaster reconnaissance, Japan’s androids are making strides in the kitchen. Suzumo Machinery Co., Ltd. has unveiled a robot capable of creating 2,500 inari-zushi rolls an hour. All the user (read: human) has to do is fill the rice hopper and place fried tofu rolls on a turntable. While we doubt anyone will be consuming that much inari-zushi any time soon, that type of efficiency is indeed impressive. Of course, this isn’t the first robot capable of dishing up Japanese food; in fact, robotics engineers seem to have a fair amount of pride in the national cuisine and program their creations to prepare all sorts of dishes,  from ramen and sushi to the potentially messy okonomiyaki. Yes, half the fun of this savory pancake is preparing it yourself, but watching a robot make it, and sing at the same time, is pretty cool, too.

 

Pulsations (06.08.12)

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Kikuchi Naoko’s sarin (from Mutant Frog): In honor of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Kikuchi Naoko’s arrest, blogger Roy Berman shares gripping excerpts from “Aum and I,” a book by former cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi. Berman was part of a collaboration that translated the text into English. The quotes are chilling.
  • Japanese artist Takeshi Miyakawa on his time in jail (From Spoon & Tamago): Takeshi Miyakawa, a Japanese-born artist who now lives in New York, talks about an installation mix-up that got him thrown in jail and his surprising approach to locked-up life.
  • Iseya, an old Tokyo establishment, set to close this month (From Tokyo Times): Amidst the multitude of chain restaurants and bars, Iseya stands out as being laid back and lacking requirements or expectations of its guests. The restaurant is slated to be closed this month in the name of progress, but some wouldn’t call it that.
  • Thoughts on the life and alcoholism of Prince Tomohito (from Shisaku): Japan politics blogger Michael Cucek offers a critical reflection on Prince Tomohito and his struggle with alcoholism. He also highlights some of the Prince’s positive contributions to Japan during his life.
  • The future of disaster relief (from Asiajin): A new technology to aid in disaster relief may soon be available to anyone with a smartphone. Augmented reality shows  real-time data on a user’s mobile device about potential dangers and how to avert them.

Video blogger ‘BusanKevin‘ talks about the tsunami protection in Kobe.

Pulsations (06.01.12)

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • City of Kitakyushu Starts Test of Tidal Power Generation (from JapanFS): Solar power is so last decade. Check out how the city of Kitakyushu is looking to harvest the power of the moon by generating electricity from the tides.
  • Political kabuki in Japan (From Ampontan): Observers who toss around the term “political kabuki” are usually way off base, Ampontan says. However, he explains why the Osaka political maneuvering around the restart of the Oi reactors is indeed a drama worthy of the name.
  • Making sense of dollers (From Tokyo Scum Brigade): Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about dressing up like a giant, silent, perpetually grinning anime doll. Did we say “afraid?” Maybe “terrified” is the word.
  • Are Japanese Moe Otaku Right-Wing? (from Neojapanisme):  Passionate about anime? Check. Teen idols? Check. Right-wing politics? Ch . . . wait, what?  It may be surprising, but those are some of the most common topics on Alfalfa Mosaic, a popular blog and 2ch aggregator. Is this is the start of an otaku political movement?
  • Simplifying Chopstick Etiquette (from Spoon & Tamago): You know that awkward moment when you’re using chopsticks and aren’t quite sure where to place them after a bite? Fear no more, because designers Takeshi Hamana and Yuya Iwagaki plan to teach proper dinner etiquette with their new chopstick packaging. (Disclaimer: Basic origami skills required!)

Pulsations (05.10.12)

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Visual guide to Japanese kaomoji (emoticons) (from Japan Sugoi): One of the sad things about coming to Japan is discovering that your phone is able to express more shades of human emotion than you. The only logical step is to start copying the emoticons — Japan Sugoi shows you how.
  • A Poppin’ Cookin’ Good Time (from Sake Puppets): “Where’s my flying car,” you might ask. “Where is that love-making robot I was promised?” If you feel a little sad about this future we’re living in, maybe this DIY ice-cream cone candy set will cheer you up.

JAL builds a social media campaign, one block at a time

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Play with blocks and possiby win a round trip from Tokyo to Boston

To celebrate its new route from Tokyo to Boston, JAL has launched a nifty social media campaign called “JAL Social Block Art.” Also available in English for U.S. residents, those taking part get the chance to win air miles, special key holders and even a pair of tickets between Tokyo and Boston. Only users who register via Facebook or Twitter can qualify to win prizes, potentially making it a great viral campaign.

Once signed in, you’re presented with 3-D blocks to play with; competitors can add colors and remove or add mini blocks. If you hit on the correct combination of blocks, you’re automatically entered into two lotteries. The first lets you know immediately if you’ve won a key holder or air miles. The second is for round trip flights and is drawn at a later date.

10→1 design Works, the firm behind the sites, was also responsible for the award-winning Uniqlo Lucky Line website, which also used social media to allow customers to virtually stand in line at new Uniqlo stores in Tokyo and Taipei for a chance to win prizes.

On March 28, the day the campaign launched, 160,000 blocks were made. However, the Twitter feed suggests that the majority of entrants are Japanese. Granted, the default language of teh site is Japanese and the English button is a little hard to spot.  English-language promotion of the site has also been scant. With foreign tourism still flagging after the quake, you’d think JAL would be making a bit more noise.

Smartphones hook up with domestic appliances

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

The iRemocon device controls your domestic appliances via smartphone

Want to turn on the AC so that you can come home to a cool apartment, or run a bath before you even step through the door? Clever systems that allow you to remotely control your household appliances from your smartphone are now trending in Japan. The iRemocon from Glamo, Inc  has been on the market since last summer and an Android version went on the market at the end of January this year.  DENSO, working with Toyota Housing and Misawa Homes, has a  system called HEMS (home energy management system) in the pipeline, although the launch appears to have been delayed.

Apart from the rush of omnipotence it gives gadget freaks, being able to remotely dominate your domestic domain from afar also benefits the environment by encouraging increased energy efficiency. The aircon, for example, can be set to be switched off automatically during the night with a pre-programmed function (though it has to be said that there are plenty of air conditioners on the market that already enable you to do this) and the remote feature allows you to make sure you haven’t left appliances on when you’re out of the house.

Both systems use a device installed in the home that can be programmed to communicate with domestic electronic devices. Though iRemocon appears to have beaten the HEMS system to the punch with its launch last year, HEMS will provide useful data to the customer about energy consumption and CO2 emissions, giving it the edge as an environmentally friendly product.

But otaku props go to iRemocon, which gives users the ability to customize their own remote control skin on their smartphone app and also lets users record their favorite TV shows while they’re out. Another bonus of the system is that it can be used to guard against theft: When you’re on holiday you can pre-program your home lights to be switched off and on, giving the impression that the place is occupied.

Panasonic is also exploring ways to get smartphones interacting with appliances. The new SR-SX2 Series of rice cookers and NE-R Series of steam ovens (to be launched in June) are both programmable by smartphone. Simply hover the smartphone over the device to set up the cooking times. If you’re wondering why people would choose to do this rather than pushing the buttons on the device itself, the answer is that this way things are supposedly simplified. The app for these products has a database of recipes which users can choose from. Once they’ve decided on the meal they’re going to cook, the app manages the settings on the appliance for you. An attractive option for those who can’t be bothered to read the manual.

Pulsations (05.04.12)

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Superhero time 5-1-12 (from Japanator): Your friends at Japan Pulse are very disappointed that you haven’t kept track of your favorite Japanese superhero tv-shows. This post recaps some of the latest episodes – read it, or no rice balls for you!
  • Bang A Gong (from Shisaku): It’s award season at the government quarters in Tokyo. A great day of bureaucrats pinning orders on other bureaucrats — unless, of course, the other bureaucrats are women.
  • Unmanned Wave-Powered Boat Developed by Tokai University (from Japan for Sustainability): Sure, a boat that can harvest energy from waves and sail unmanned around the world is impressive and everything, but just remember this: One day, when machines have taken control of our civilization, we will look back and blame Japan.

Pulsations (04.27.12)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are  . . .

  • On Making Ice Cream Out of Plastic in Japan (from This Japanese Life): Japan is world-famous for its varied cuisine, and pictures just aren’t enough.  This Japanese Life goes through the history and production method of Japan’s fake plastic foods.
  • The end of the line (from The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo): In an unexpected break, Mr. Salaryman finds himself in a park alongside a homeless guy and another salaryman, who is looking sad. From this, the author draws an extreme conclusion.
  • Turntable Rider lets bike riders be DJs (from Spoon & Tamago): You know the feeling — you’re riding through Yoyogi Park, doing kick flips on your BMX, but it’s just not enough street cred for you. Why not DJ at the same time? Leave it to the Japanese to make “being cool” more time efficient.
  • Japanese astrology and warrior robot condoms (from Japan Sugoi): Some people choose their partner based on his or her zodiac sign. Of course, if you go this far, you might as well go all the way and choose your birth control by zodiac sign, too.

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