Posts Tagged ‘gps’

Today’s J-blip: Running man, powered by Facebook

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

As part of Nike Japan’s “Run Like Me” marketing campaign, British expat Joseph Tame will jog 100 meters for every “like” that he receives via the campaign’s special Facebook page/app. You might remember Joseph as that earnest mobile-tech evangelist who rose to Internet fame by using GPS to turn his runs into massive urban scribbles, as well as broadcasting his start-to-finish performances in past Tokyo Marathons. A true original, he would appear to be the right poster boy for Nike’s highly customizable LunarGlide+ 4. How far will he have to run? That’s up to you. It should be noted that while the campaign might inspire consumers to buy a pair of cool shoes and run like Joseph, as a large-scale social media campaign that taps into collective sadism, this might be a first.

Tracking QR codes in the wild

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Checking in?

Checking in?

People might climb mountains to get away from the distractions of  ubiquitous technology, but it could be the thing that saves them if things go awry. Yamanashi Prefecture is the most recent hiking spot to set up a system of QR codes at points along the way on popular climbing and hiking routes. Accessing these points from a keitai or smart phone with a QR-reader app can deliver static information like maps, elevation and amenities along the way as well as information that other hikers have updated recently, such as any problems with the trail and weather conditions up ahead. In the mountains, where storms can come in fast, this could be a lifesaver, for both the old folks who have always climbed in large numbers and the hip yama-girls who have recently started heading for the hills in droves.

The codes serve another function, too: By reading the codes, a hiker leaves a trail of where he or she has been. If hikers need to be rescued and have lost contact, search and rescue teams can follow their digital footprints and narrow down the location where they were last active. The service can be set to automatically send out emails to the folks back home telling them where you are along the hike.

The new system in Yamanashi is called “M-navi,” for Minami [southern] Alps. It was built in cooperation with a system that has been running in Kyushu since 2009 called “yama-aruki nabi,” or “mountain-walking navigation.” It started with the purpose of “making hiking safer and more comfortable, for even one person.” No surprise, they’ve got a Twitter account, with a curated list of people and organizations tweeting about hiking.

A cocktail of AR and social marketing

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Chivas Regal scotch is making a stir with a promotion campaign that harnesses the power of augmented reality. The campaign, which claims to be the first of its of its kind in Japan, is rather unfortunately named Aroma of Tokyo — not really the association you want to make in these sweaty days of extreme heat and power-saving measures.

Nevertheless, the concept is simple and clever: Users, while out and about in Tokyo, collect points via their cell phone that can then be exchanged for a free cocktail or gift. To take part, participants must first download AR app Layar to their cell phones. The app, which is compatible with GPS-equipped cell phones, then directs a user to one of several locations where points can be obtained. Once at a location you need to check in using Foursquare or Livedoor’s social networking service Rocket Touch to obtain points. After you’ve collected 18 points, you receive a coupon for a free cocktail at one of 18 bars around the city. The Chivas Regal cocktails, which are said to be worth ¥2,000 each, have been specially created by top Tokyo bartenders.

If you manage to collect 85 points, you’ll receive free Chivas Regal branded gifts: either a moleskin wallet or a USB stick. Those who check in with Rocket Touch get entered into a weekly lottery for which the prize is a 700 ml bottle of Chivas Regal.

Though the AR element is not particularly elegant, merely consisting of a blue dot superimposed on your cell phone screen that guides the user through Tokyo’s streets, we think it’s nevertheless a clever marketing gimmick. Utilizing new technology is bound to attract a younger crowd, making them aware of the brand. The number 18 (18 points for a cocktail, 18 participating bars) also underlines the message that this is to promote Chivas 18. It’s also a win-win for Chivas because it drives customers to  bar/clients that stock the alcohol.

In many ways the campaign resembles Facebook’s new “Check-In Coupon” service, with which users can obtain coupons depending on their physical location, with the added, yet rather basic, AR element.

 

Privacy not an issue for geolocation apps

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Facebook have announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

Facebook announced that Japan is the second country in the world to receive Facebook Places

This week’s news that Japan is the first country outside the U.S. to to get Facebook Places might have come as a surprise to many. While social networks abound here, online privacy kerfuffles are common and the average Japanese prefers avatars and pseudonyms to real names and identities. Would this nation really embrace an application that broadcasts their movement in the real world?

In case you haven’t heard, Facebook Places is a geolocation app that allows users with GPS-friendly cellphones to “check in” whenever they arrive at a location  – and “check out” when they leave. This effectively makes your movements transparent to your social network online, so you can meet up with nearby friends, if you wish. But Facebook aren’t exactly foisting this app on a hostile market: Similar platforms such as  Livedoor’s Roketacchi (Location Touch), BrightKite and Foursquare have already proved popular here.

However, it seems odd that geolocation software is such a hit, seeing as traditionally personal privacy online is closely guarded in Japan. Google came under a barrage of criticism when they launched Google Street View, with many complaining that private moments and dirty laundry had been unnecessarily displayed online. The upshot was that the company were forced to reshoot its footage at a lower angle – at considerable expense. Privacy is a big issue even among users of social networking services such as Mixi, where many users veil their identity and avoid posting pictures of themselves.

So why the popularity? A recent article in TNW Asia points to the rise in popularity in Western apps, following on from the runaway success of the iPhone, which is now almost as ubiquitous on the streets as Louis Vuitton handbags. If this is the case, does this mean that a Western laissez-faire attitude to online privacy will follow suit?

Perhaps. Or maybe it will be more of an adopt-and-adapt model: Though Japanese are signing up to Facebook in droves, many users are still loathe to use real head shots for their profile picture.  (Many of my Japanese Facebook friends prefer to obscure their faces or put up a photo of an inanimate object instead.)

Those who chose to embrace geolocation services might feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. This year, for example, DJ Naka_tei made dubious history when he revealed his location in an Akihabara toilet and made a public appeal on Twitter for toilet paper; he was rescued within 20 minutes.  It’s times like these when sacrificing your online privacy is not such a pressing issue.

GPS navigation for cyclists gathers speed

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Tokyo Zoo Project allows you to take an animal shaped bike tour of the city

Tokyo Zoo Project allows you to take an animal shaped bike tour of the city

One of the best ways to get around Tokyo is by bike: the city’s cyclists are able to whizz down alleys too narrow for most traffic, sail the opposite way down a one-way street and bypass traffic jams by hopping up onto the sidewalk when necessary. Cycling around the city this way you won’t get much hassle from local policemen, who tend to turn a blind eye to such minor traffic infractions, but you might find yourself stymied by the maze-like nature of Tokyo’s streets.

These days there are a number of GPS devices available for the adventurous cyclist who wants to explore the city streets, but with so many phones possessing GPS capability is it worth investing in such a device? Surprisingly, while car-compatible GPS apps for cell phones proliferate, there’s not much available for cyclists yet. As mentioned earlier, bicycles have more access to the narrower byways of Tokyo’s streets, so using a pedestrian app like AU’s Easy Navi Walk is preferable to a system designed for motorist that might have you cycling down polluted traffic clogged streets.

In April this year DoCoMo updated their car navigation system, iMapFan, to include a mode aimed at cyclists to allow users to identify bike friendly routes. At ¥315 a month, DoCoMo’s system has the edge over devices such as Sony’s NV-U35, which costs nearly ¥30,000. The problem though is that, unlike custom-made devices, no accompanying handlebar mount for cell phones has come out on the market, meaning that cyclists still have to keep stopping to consult their maps. Also, the NV-U35 is waterproof, so unless you’re buying a brand new waterproof phone you might find a cell phone impossible to use in wet weather.

To promote NV-U35 (which was released on the market earlier this year), Sony has come up with a fun summer campaign that allows cyclists to discover the backstreets of Tokyo. Pedal pushers can follow a series of themed routes that describe the shape of an animal through the city streets by using the gadget. Each route has a cute name to suit its species, for example, “The Giraffe Who Came To Compare His Height With Sky Tree Tower.” That route takes you past the site of the tower (which is currently under construction but still a pretty impressive height of nearly 400 meters) and includes recommended coffee shops and scenic spots to stop off at along the way.

Currently there are three routes available on the Tokyo Zoo Project website, but by August that will have grown to 10 to create a zoo of animal routes that spread out across the city. The general public are also invited to submit their own ideas for routes via Twitter (@tokyozoopj) making the campaign interactive.

If bicycle navigation systems take off, local policemen are going to spend less time giving out directions and more time making sure people are observing the rules of the road, making the advent of GPS both a good and bad thing for cyclists.

RSS

Recent Posts