For a quick trip to inner space, check out Gate Vision, a video by Kazuhiko Kobayashi. Using software to convert Shinkansen bullet train footage into a circular image, Kobayashi creates a hyper-psychedelic video mandala that mutates along with the rapidly changing scenery. The first minute shows the train's departure from the platform, and the rest shows the kaleidoscopic scenery from the window as the train cruises toward Tokyo station. To fully appreciate the mind-bending sound of Shinkansen space travel, it is best to view this with powerful speakers (or headphones).
On May 24, Sony unveiled what it is calling the world's first flexible, full-color organic light emitting diode (OLED) display built on organic thin-film transistor (TFT) technology. OLEDs typically use a glass substrate, but Sony researchers developed new technology for forming organic TFT on a plastic substrate, enabling them to create a thin, lightweight and flexible full-color display. The 2.5-inch prototype display supports 16.8 million colors at a 120 x 160 pixel resolution (80 ppi, .318-mm pixel pitch), is 0.3 mm thick and weighs 1.5 grams without the driver.
According to Sony, which plans to release a new line of miniature TVs this year and is bolstering efforts to develop next-generation flat-panel OLEDs, this new technology will lead to the development of thinner, lighter and softer electronics.
The company is scheduled to present the results of its research at the SID 2007 International Symposium now underway in the US.
The mecha version of the Nissan DUALIS SUV designed by anime creator/mecha designer Shoji Kawamori (Macross) has been spotted in Tokyo. The 3.5 meter tall machine will be on display at the Nissan Gallery (Ginza) from May 23 to June 13 and at the Sony Building (Ginza) from June 25 to July 1. Here are a few videos of the DUALIS Powered Suit in action around town.
Hitachi has successfully trial manufactured a lightweight, portable brain scanner that enables users to keep tabs on their mental activity during the course of their daily lives. The system, which consists of a 400 gram (14 oz) headset and a 630 gram (1 lb 6 oz) controller worn on the waist, is the result of Hitachi's efforts to transform the brain scanner into a familiar everyday item that anyone can use.
The rechargeable battery-operated mind reader relies on Hitachi's so-called "optical topography" technology, which interprets mental activity based on subtle changes in the brain's blood flow. Because blood flow increases to areas of the brain where neurons are firing (to supply glucose and oxygen to the tissue), changes in hemoglobin concentrations are an important index by which to measure brain activity. To measure these hemoglobin concentrations in real time, eight small surface-emitting lasers embedded in the headset fire harmless near-infrared rays into the brain and the headset's photodiode sensors convert the reflected light into electrical signals, which are relayed to the controller.
The real-time brain data can either be stored in Flash memory or sent via wifi to a computer for instant analysis and display. A single computer can support up to 24 mind readers at a time, allowing multiple users to monitor brain activity while communicating or engaging in group activities.
In addition to health and medical applications, Hitachi foresees uses for the personal mind reader in fields such as psychology, education and marketing. Although it is unclear what neuromarketing applications the company has in mind, it is pretty clear that access to real-time customer brain data would provide marketers with a better understanding of how and why shoppers make their purchasing decisions. One can also imagine interactive campaigns that, for example, ask customers to think positive thoughts about a certain product in exchange for discount coupons or the chance to win a prize.
The technology could also be used in new forms of entertainment such as "mind gaming," where the player's physical brain activity becomes a part of game play. It is also feasible to integrate the brain scanner with a remote control brain-machine interface that would allow users to operate electronic devices with their minds.
Hitachi has yet to determine when the personal mind reader will be made commercially available.
The Ice Aquarium in the port city of Kessennuma in Miyagi prefecture looks like an interesting place to chill out. The frosty cold aquarium houses an arrangement of 40 large ice blocks containing 450 specimens (80 varieties) of local marine life -- including squid, crab, bonito and saury -- which are frozen in perpetual mid-swim.
The ambient lighting and sound inside the aquarium are designed to give visitors the sense that they are on the ocean floor, while the room temperature is kept at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). Heavy coats are available at the aquarium entrance.
The Ice Aquarium, which also features a display of Antarctic ice retrieved by a Japanese research vessel in 2002, is part of Umi No Ichi, a facility at Kessennuma Harbor that includes a giant fresh seafood market, a shark restaurant and a shark museum.
On May 18, buildup Co., Ltd. unveiled the Tamanoi Vinegar Robot, the world's first robot designed to make presentations about vinegar. The robot is scheduled to go to work at the Tamanoi Vinegar Corporation's Osaka office in July.
Relying on pre-programmed speech and gestures to communicate its knowledge of vinegar, the robot features a system of pneumatic servos that control 24 points of articulation in the upper half of its body. The 180 cm (nearly 6 ft), 100 kg (220 lb) machine has a mouth that moves in sync with its voice, as well as a fiber-reinforced plastic outer shell that is colored black -- like Tamanoi's black vinegar -- with an iridescent coating that changes hue according to the viewing angle.
The robot's first duties will be to entertain guests at Tamanoi's "Cyber Trip" amusement theater located in the company's new head office in Osaka. In addition to the robot, the theater will feature a 12-minute high-definition video on vinegar, also produced by buildup.
KEIZOmachine! and Juicy -- together known as Hifana -- began as belly dance percussionists in the late '90s, but now they rely on electronics for their sample-heavy, scratchy hip-hop/breakbeat sound. They have some wild animated videos created by "hybrid" music label W+K Tokyo Lab.
Researchers at Gifu University's Graduate School of Medicine have developed a robotic patient that can respond verbally to questions about how it feels and move its body in ways that exhibit the symptoms of its ailment. The researchers, who developed a less sophisticated "sick" droid last year, claim this robot patient is the world's first to exhibit symptoms in the way it moves.
Modeled after an adult female and equipped with body parts that move in a smooth, human-like way, the android is designed to provide students with valuable hands-on experience in diagnosing rare medical conditions. For example, when suffering from myasthenia gravis -- an often misdiagnosed neuromuscular disease leading to muscle weakness and fatigue -- the robot tells the doctor its eyelids are heavy, and it changes its facial expression, slowly relaxes its shoulders and hunches forward.
"It was difficult to get the shoulder joints and shoulder blades to move like a human," says researcher Yuzo Takahashi. "In the future, we want to program the robot with more symptoms and create a very realistic learning tool." If all goes well, the robot will become part of the curriculum next year.