Posts Tagged ‘Toyota’

2012: The year in gear

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Every year the Nikkei Marketing Journal (NMJ) ranks the year’s best new products and services like a sumo tournament, naming a “yokozuna” (champion) for eastern and western Japan. We combed through that, as well as magazines like Trendy (also from Nikkei) and Dime, for the game-changing gear of 2012 in Japan. Some trends we’re noticing are compact, cheaper goods that offer a comparative experience to the full size ones they’re designed to replace and “smart” appliances that work in tandem with smart phones, which had a big year too.

Honda N Box

The kei car from Honda doesn’t look like a kei car. Kei, or “light,” cars are ubiquitous in Japan; unless you’re planning to log long hours on the highway (for which you could just use the train), a small, light car with no power is perfect for traffic-clogged, narrow streets. Also, they cost a lot less to register and insure. But the innovation of the N Box – some 200,000 were sold this year – is that it is much roomier than your average kei. Not American-style minivan roomy, but maybe mini-minivan roomy. Ranked #3 for eastern Japan by NMJ and #12 by Trendy.

Panasonic “smart appliances”

Panasonic launched a new series of appliances that can be controlled remotely by an Android smartphone – meaning you can use your phone to turn on the rice cooker or the air conditioner before you get home (or check that you’ve turned them off). There’s also a scale that sends data to your phone, so you can track your weight-loss progress. We’re not sure what you’d want to communicate to the fridge that’s also part of the lineup, though. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

Mirrorless cameras

2012 saw the market for mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras explode. Mirrorless cameras offered an affordable, compact alternative to a comparatively bulky DSLRs. Pretty much every major manufacturer now has a model out, and this year the prices fell under that crucial ¥50,000 mark. Gear magazine Dime name checks Nikon’s 1 V1, Olympus’ PEN Lite E-PL3, Panasonic’s Lumix GF5X, and Sony’s NEX-C3D in its best buys of 2012 roundup. Featured in Dime’s “My Valuable Products 2012.”

7-inch tablets

Smaller, cheaper tablets won over consumers who had been reluctant to buy into the first generation of full-size tablets. The market was just full of them this year, including imports like Apple’s iPad mini, Samsung’s Galaxy, and Google’s Nexus 7 along with domestic offerings like Toshiba’s Regza AT570 and Sharp’s Aquos Pad SHT 21. Ranked #1 for western Japan by NMJ.

Toyota Aqua

This compact hybrid edged out Toyota’s pricier Prius this year to become Japan’s top-selling car, with 24,192 units sold in October alone. Ranked #16 by Trendy.

Sharp Cocorobo

Not only can this “next generation” cleaning robot be controlled remotely by your smart phone, but it also has a built in camera and wifi so you can actually watch it work through your phone (if you have absolutely nothing better to do), seeing what it sees. You could even get it to send you before and after photos of its handiwork. Ranked #29 by Trendy.

Sony 3D Headset

Sony’s futuristic 3D personal viewing headset, the HMZ-T1, which actually came out late last year, proved more popular than Sony anticipated and the company announced in February that production couldn’t keep up with demand. The company has since launched the lighter HMZ-T2. Ranked #24 by Trendy.

Nintendo WII U

This one came out too late to make the yearly round-ups, but Nintendo’s new high definition system that includes a tablet-like controller that also works on the TV looks to be another game changer.

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.

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