Posts Tagged ‘celebrities’

They’ve got a Twitter bot for that

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Twitter love is showing no signs of abating in Japan. It’s not just real live people “muttering” their 140-character thoughts, though. As much as a quarter of traffic on the microblogging site is thought to come from automated accounts, or “bots.” Japanese Twitter bots are slightly different than English-language bots. While many of the most popular bots in English do something – remind you of your to-do list, say, or help you calculate a tip – a large portion of the most popular bots in Japan spout quotes from celebrities and anime programs.

Welcome your new bot friends

Meet your new bot friends

And while Japanese engineers are working hard to create real-world robots that will fool us into thinking they’re real, some of the artificial intelligence bots on Twitter have already succeeded. Last year, a Japanese blogger wrote about being surprised to discover that some of his Twitter friends were actually bots. There are scads of AI bots like Robot Secretary. Included in this group of advanced bots is the popular Shuumai, which “learns” speech by reading what people write and then tries to regurgitate it appropriately.

Who’s who

According to a Goo ranking, the celebrity bot that people most want to follow is Matsuko Deluxe. There are at least three bots tweeting quotes by the zaftig cross-dressing TV personality and columnist, with a total of over 100,000 followers.  The quotes are a bit barbed, whether they’re directed at other TV personalities (“The women on Nippon TV are mostly no good“), at him/herself (“I don’t even know if I’m funny“; “I think I should try a little harder“) or at no one in particular (“Basically, I don’t like you.”)

Two ranks down and a world away is Becky, a singer/comedian/actress who at one point  in her career had officially (er, that’s “officially”) changed her name to include emoticons. Her smiling headshot, backed with Brady Bunch blue, replies to keywords, like “good night,” with upbeat messages peppered with music notes and stars. The person responsible for this bot is also the brains behind behind one that impersonates Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son.

Also in the top 10 are the famous words of Beat Takeshi (“I want skill more than money, sensibility more than power.”) and the Seattle Mariners Ichiro Suzuki (“What motivates me is that I like baseball.”)

The Peter Drucker bot translates the American management expert’s wisdom into Japanese tweets. A novel about a high school girls’ baseball team studying his techniques made him a buzzword in Japan this year, perhaps an unexpected posthumous honor.

Continue reading about Twitter bots in Japan →

Connecting six degrees of separation

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The links to legendary shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa

The links to legendary shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa

A new visual search tool called Hitotsunagi (Connecting People), developed by NTT Resonant, allows users to explore the relationships between Japanese celebrities and historical figures. Launched this week on Goo Labo (Goo Labs), an offshoot of portal site Goo, the tool makes use of a rich indexing technique developed by NTT Cyberspace Laboratory that extracts contextual relationships based on online data found in the news and blog entries.

A search on a famous name produces a bubble at the center of the screen around which a number of smaller bubbles pop up, linked to the central bubble; tags displays the nature of the surrounding connections. Clicking on one of the related people moves them into the focus of a new search.

The tool, which resembles Google’s Wonderwheel,  is impressively smooth and swift, though the results of our searches were a bit hit and miss. While historical figures like Ieyasu Tokugawa brought up images of paintings, searches for well-known, contemporary names such as Ryuichi Sakamoto came up blank. And according to Hitotsunagi, actor Shun Shioya, born in 1982, is the “father” of actress Misako Renbutsu, born in 1991. Oops.

Glitches aside, Hitotsunagi should be rather educational for Japanophiles wanting to put things quickly into perspective. NTT Resonant is keen on pushing the interface envelope, and it is indeed a fun tool to play with, but the devil in me would love to see relationship categories beyond family members and friends, such as rivals and ex-lovers, just to spice things up a bit.

The service will be available until Dec. 31, 2010, and currently only searches Japanese text. One wonders if the tool could be extended to the rest of the word. It would be an excellent global manifestation of Stanley Milgram’s Small World Experiment.

Japan by the numbers (2.23.10)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Trends in Japan 2009: celebrity drug busts

Monday, December 28th, 2009

The children's decongestants above were not the only powders on the street, apparently

The children’s decongestants seen above were apparently not the only widely distributed powders in Japan this year

One doesn’t have to be an ardent news junkie to know that drugs and drug busts featured prominently in Japan’s headlines this year. From soldiers to pop stars, 2009 will be remembered as a year of disillusionment for many of the Japanese public regarding the “purity” of their heroes.

Still reeling from the marijuana scandal that began with Russian sumo stars in 2008, the search for other pot-smoking wrestlers continued in January, resulting in the first native Japanese to fall victim to the purge (he apparently smoked blunts). All wrestlers were subjected to a number of drug tests, most of which produced nothing. As the scandal unfolded, coverage of Japan’s “Reefer Madness” grew, with statistics showing that use of and arrests involving the devil weed were on the rise in the archipelago. Interestingly enough, as Jake Adelstein explains, it’s not a crime to use marijuana in Japan, but it is a crime to possess it (a retired cop once told him “don’t smoke more than you can eat”).

Not the case with “stimulants,” the catch-all phrase used for hard synthetic drugs and the real source of Japan’s drug problems. The stoner sumo fiasco was completely overshadowed this summer by two stories that continue to reverberate across country. Two celebrities – Noriko Sakai and Manabu Oshio – were accused of using meth and ecstasy, respectively. Both cases were a muckracker’s wet dream, made even more tantalizing to the press when placed in context. On the surface, Oshio’s story was the juiciest, since he had allegedly shared his stash with a bar hostess, who subsequently died of unknown causes. If that wasn’t enough to pique national interest, the event in question happened in a swank Roppongi Hills apartment owned by Mika Noguchi, the founder of lingerie giant, Peach John, Japan’s answer to Victoria’s Secret.

Continue reading about celebrity drug busts in 2009 →

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