Archives: June 2007

Taberu Me: Peanuts as business cards

29 Jun 2007

TaberuMe edible business cards --

For people looking to liven up the formal rigamarole surrounding the exchange of business cards in Japan, Arigatou Co., Ltd., a company specializing in the sale of laser-etched food products, offers "Taberu Me" edible business cards printed on peanuts.

Laser-etched beans and nuts -- Taberu Me cards are created using Arigatou's high-grade CO2 laser engraver nicknamed "Shiawase-kun," which can etch up to 700 characters per second on hard organic materials like beans, nuts, rice and pasta and which has been optimized to print clean-looking logos, names and telephone numbers on the irregular surfaces of peanut shells.

As for the product name, Taberu means "eat" and Me could either be an abbreviation of meishi ("business card") or "me" in English, in which case Taberu Me would be saying "Eat me" -- a message you probably don't want to convey to your new business partner at the first meeting. Regardless, a set of 150 Taberu Me cards costs 5,800 yen (around $50), which is mere peanuts considering the lasting impression you will make on your new counterparts.

[Link: Taberu Me via Gizmodo Japan]

Official Japanese space menu

27 Jun 2007

JAXA's official Japanese space menu --- A new menu is in the works for hungry cosmonauts with a taste for Japanese cuisine. On June 27, in a move to expand the menu aboard the International Space Station, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) certified 29 Japanese food products from 12 manufacturers as official Japanese space food.

All items on the Japanese space menu -- which includes instant ramen, curry, onigiri (rice balls) and powdered green tea -- satisfy the International Space Station's stringent standards requiring packaged foods to withstand changes in air pressure and temperature and survive one year in storage under ordinary earthly temperatures. To meet these requirements, the food products are packed in special tubes. The foods also satisfy the preparation time requirement, which calls for food to be ready to eat in less than one hour after adding heat or water.

In addition, much of the space food has been redesigned to prevent it from scattering in zero-g. The ramen, for example, features a thick broth and noodles that are clumped together in bite-sized pieces. Extra flavoring has also been added because food tends to taste bland in zero-g.

Once the ISS menu is expanded to include the Japanese space food, astronauts aboard the space station will be able to eat it as they wish. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is scheduled for a long-term stay aboard the International Space Station beginning in the fall of 2008, will undoubtedly appreciate the new fare.

Here is a complete list of the officially recognized Japanese space food products and the companies that produce them:

- Ajinomoto: Egg soup

- Onishi Foods: White rice, rice with red azuki beans, rice with red azuki beans and wild greens, salmon onigiri

- Kagome: Tomato ketchup, vegetable sauce, vegetable jelly drink (tomato/carrot)

- Kewpie: Mayonnaise, rice porridge

- Nissin: Soy sauce ramen, seafood ramen, curry ramen

- House Foods: Curry (beef/pork/chicken)

- Maruha: Mackerel in miso sauce, sardines in tomato sauce, kabayaki saury (broiled with sweet soy sauce)

- Mitsui Norin: Powdered green tea, powdered oolong tea

- Meiji: Functional drink (amino jelly)

- Yamazaki Baking: Azuki bean yokan (jelly), chestnut yokan

- Yamazaki-Nabisco: Kuroame (brown sugar candy), mint candy

- Riken Vitamin: Wakame (seaweed) soup, clear soup

[Sources: Yomiuri, JAXA press release]

TWISTER: Telexistence Wide-angle Immersive STEReoscope

26 Jun 2007

TWISTER: Telexistence Wide-angle Immersive STEReoscope

A research team led by Susumu Tachi from the University of Tokyo has developed a rotating panoramic display that immerses viewers in a 3D video environment. The Telexistence Wide-angle Immersive STEReoscope, or TWISTER, is the world's first full-color 360-degree 3D display that does not require viewers to wear special glasses, says professor Tachi, who has spent over 10 years researching and developing the device.

TWISTER -- Inside the 1.2 meter (4 ft) tall, 2 meter (6.5 ft) wide cylindrical display are 50,000 LEDs arranged in columns. As the display rotates around the observer's head at a speed of 1.6 revolutions per second, these specially arranged LED columns show a slightly different image to each of the observer's eyes, thus creating the illusion of a 3D image. In other words, TWISTER tricks the eye by exploiting what is known as "binocular parallax" -- the apparent difference in position of an object as seen separately by the left eye and the right eye.

TWISTER -- For now, TWISTER is capable of serving up pre-recorded 3D video from a computer, allowing viewers to experience things like virtual amusement park rides or close-up views of molecular models. However, the researchers are working to develop TWISTER's 3D videophone capabilities by equipping it with a camera system that can capture real-time three-dimensional images of the person inside, which can then be sent to another TWISTER via fiber optics. In this way, two people separated by physical distance will be able to step into their TWISTERs to enjoy real-time 3D virtual interaction.

However, given TWISTER's size, the first order of business might be to figure out how to fit it through your front door.

[Source: Asahi]

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator

22 Jun 2007

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator --

This spoof advertisement from the mid-1980s shows an imaginary home power system called the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator. Here is a loose translation.


A gentle source of unlimited energy for the home

Reduce your monthly electric bill by 80% and enjoy a constant, stable supply of energy free from the fluctuations in supply that affect the oil market.

A single, user-friendly activation switch makes the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Power Generator simple to operate, even for children and the elderly. One small nuclear fuel rod (about 15 cm long) generates enough electricity to support the average household for six months. To dispose of a spent fuel rod, simply insert it into its special shielded case and discard it along with ordinary non-combustible household waste.

Main unit: 1.31 million yen [$5,450*] (plus tax)

Set of 3 fuel rods: 137,000 yen [$570*] (plus tax)
[* Dollar figures based on early '80s exchange rate of 240 yen/dollar.]

When using the power generator with direct current, people near the device may on rare occasions experience dizziness or a tingling sensation in the hands or feet. If you experience such conditions, temporarily discontinue use and consult a physician.

(Coming soon:
Nuclear batteries (Types AA, C and D)
500x longer lifespan than conventional alkali batteries!)

Safe, efficient nuclear power is now readily available for use in your home.

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Power Generator - Type 1
Nichigen Co., Ltd.
Nihon Shogata Genshiryoku Hatsuden, K.K.
("Japan Compact Nuclear Generators, Inc.")


Cellphone recycling bins at Tokyo convenience stores

22 Jun 2007

Cellphone recycling bin -- On June 20, NTT Docomo and am/pm Japan announced plans to begin equipping convenience stores with cellphone recycling bins, making it easier for people to recycle their unwanted devices.

Since 1998, Japan's wireless providers have been recycling unwanted phones in their own stores for customers who switch models or cancel their contracts. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly common for customers to wait a while before recycling their old handsets, mainly because they hold greater amounts of important data that needs to be accessed even after switching models. Most users eventually decide to dispose of their mobile devices, though, so NTT is hoping they will make use of these recycling bins.

The recycling bins, which will initially be set up at eight convenience stores in central Tokyo, are open to unwanted handsets of all makes and models. The bins are also designed to prevent theft of the contents.

In 2005, NTT harvested 37,993 kg (42 tons) of copper and 145 kg (320 pounds) of gold from discarded handsets.

[Source: MYCOM]

HRP-3 Promet Mk-II blue-collar robot

21 Jun 2007

HRP-3 Promet Mk-II ---

The HRP-3 Promet Mk-II, a blue-collar android tough enough to trudge through heavy rains, carry out disaster relief operations and work in environments hazardous to humans, demonstrated its skills at a June 21 press conference at Kawada Industries headquarters in Tochigi prefecture. In addition to flaunting its ability to walk on slippery surfaces, the robot showed off its electric screwdriver wielding talents by taking the opportunity to tighten up some loose screws.

The 1.6 meter (5 ft 3 in) tall, 68 kilogram (150 lb) robot, sometimes lovingly referred to as "Ma-kun," is the latest fruit of a 5-year joint effort by Kawada Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) to develop a humanoid robot with sufficient skills to enter the workforce. This latest HRP incarnation features tougher hardware to make it more suitable for work in adverse environments, as well as improved balance and the ability to move its body parts in a more complex, coordinated fashion.

As with previous HRP series robots, the HRP-3 Promet Mk-II -- which cost 400 million yen ($3.3 million) to develop -- was designed by mecha creator Yutaka Izubuchi, who is well-known for his work on anime such as Gundam and Patlabor. Depending on how the droid is programmed, it can either work autonomously or be operated by a human via a wireless remote control system.

Ma-kun's creators say they hope to one day see it land a dirty, dangerous job.

(UPDATE: For lots of short videos, go to THIS PAGE, scroll down to the second group of photos, and click on the links under each picture -- WMV format.

...Or better yet, check out the remix version set to Senor Coconut's funky cha-cha-cha version of Kraftwerk's classic "The Robots.")

[Sources: Chunichi, AIST press release]

NTT’s Tangible-3D display

21 Jun 2007

NTT Comware Tangible-3D Technology -- Researchers at NTT Comware have just made virtual reality a little more real. On June 20, the company unveiled a 3D display system that reproduces the physical feel of three-dimensional video by means of an actuator glove worn on the hand, allowing viewers to literally reach out and touch the person or object on the screen.

The so-called "Tangible-3D" prototype system is built around an improved version of NTT's 3D display -- originally developed in 2005 -- which displays 3D images without requiring special glasses. The system relies on a pair of cameras that capture and process data about the position, shape and size of objects as they are filmed. As the two video images are combined into a 3D image that is displayed on the screen at the receiving end, the data is relayed to the glove, whose array of actuators translate it into a tactile impression the user can feel. The glove operates in real-time along with the 3D video, so the user can "feel" the on-screen image as it moves.

For now, the Tangible-3D system only works in one direction, but NTT Comware is developing a two-way system that allows tactile impressions to be transmitted back and forth between multiple users. The company is also working to improve the 3D screen, which only appears three-dimensional from a particular viewing angle.

While the possibilities for this technology are endless, NTT Comware suggests it could be put to use in museum exhibits that would allow visitors to handle items on display that are ordinarily off-limits. The company also says this technology could be put to use in classrooms, where it would allow students to touch objects located very far away.

NTT Comware will exhibit the Tangible-3D system at the Industrial Virtual Reality Expo being held at Tokyo Big Sight from June 27 to 29.

[Source: NTT Comware press release via Mainichi]

Photo: Strange clouds over Sea of Okhotsk

20 Jun 2007

Strange clouds over Hokkaido --

This photograph, taken June 18 from a Japan Coast Guard aircraft off the northeastern coast of Hokkaido, shows a bird's-eye view of cloud streets over the Sea of Okhotsk. According to the Sapporo Meteorological Observatory, these low-altitude stratocumulus clouds were rolled into long, distinctive ribbons after becoming trapped in air currents. While it is not uncommon for wind to form such patterns in stratocumulus clouds, photos that clearly show the clouds rolled into strips are rare, says the observatory.

UPDATE: Watch the video.

[Source: Mainichi]

Rinpa Eshidan: Welcome to YouTube Japan

19 Jun 2007

In the first step in its international rollout, YouTube has launched localized versions of its video sharing site in nine countries -- Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the UK and Japan. YouTube Japan, which now has a fully translated interface and a local listing of recommended videos, is now featuring a welcome video by Tokyo-based art collective Rinpa Eshidan, whose killer "motion painting" videos have a history of rocking YouTube.

Watch more Rinpa Eshidan videos HERE.

[Link: YouTube Japan]