Archives: March 2008

Simroid (a.k.a. ‘Pain Girl’) on TV

27 Mar 2008

Simroid, a.k.a. Ita-girl --

Simroid, the silicone-skinned, pneumatically-powered female patient robot designed to help train dental students, recently appeared on the Fuji TV show Idainaru Miraizukan. (Watch video.)

In addition to highlighting Simroid's ability to interact with dentists and react to mouth pain, the show features an interview with Dr. Naotake Shibui of the Nippon Dental University in Tokyo, who helped develop the robot with engineers from Kokoro Co., Ltd. According to the interview, Simroid is modeled after a 28-year-old woman, and her fear of dentists and sensitivity to pain have earned her the nickname "Pain Girl" (Ita-gaaru). Asked why Simroid is female, Shibui explains that female patients must be treated with more sensitivity than male patients. With sensors embedded in her chest, Simroid can teach dentists-in-training to pay close attention to where they place their elbows.

Simroid's primary purpose is to help dental students improve their patient communication skills.

Scientists teach rodents to use rake

26 Mar 2008

Degu learns to use rake --

Rodents can learn how to wield tools with the proper training, according to new research from Japan’s Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN). In a series of experiments conducted over a 60-day period, researchers taught six degus (small rat-like rodents) to use a miniature rake to obtain food. Each degu was placed on one side of a fence with gaps large enough for its front legs to fit through, and sunflower seeds were placed out of reach on the opposite side. The rake was placed nearby, and after 60 days of practice, all six degus learned to use it to pull the sunflower seeds to within reach. This is the first known case in which rodents have been taught to use tools.

Watch a short video news report.

[Source: FNN/Yahoo!]

ApriPoko robot learns to work the remote

25 Mar 2008

ApriPoco --

Researchers at Toshiba have developed a talking robot that functions as a voice-operated universal remote control for multiple home appliances. The 2.3 kilogram (5 lb), 21 x 27 centimeter (8 x 11 in) prototype robot, named ApriPoko, learns how to operate various remote controls by watching and asking questions. ApriPoko sits in the living room and waits for you to use a remote control. When its sensors detect infrared rays emitted by a remote, the robot speaks up: "What did you just do?" it asks. Tell ApriPoko what you did ("I turned on the stereo" or "I changed to channel 321," for example), and it commits the details to memory. Then, next time you want to turn on the stereo or change the channel, simply tell ApriPoko and it transmits the appropriate IR signal directly to the device. The prototype robot is still in the development and testing phase, but Toshiba hopes to have a viable product soon.

[Source: Asahi]

iPhone band plays Denki Groove

21 Mar 2008

This minimalist version of "Smoky Bubbles" by Denki Groove (from the "A" album, 1997) was performed on a jailbroken iPod Touch 1.1.2.

Bass: Pocket Guitar (Electric Bass)
Synthesizer: iPhone Synth
Drums: BeatPhone
Guitar: Pocket Guitar (Acoustic Electric Guitar)
Piano: iAno (now known as "Pianist")

Itchy tentacle relief (’80s TV ad)

21 Mar 2008

This 1980s TV commercial touts an effective cure for athlete's tentacle.

Video: Burning piano performance

19 Mar 2008

Yosuke Yamashita plays burning piano --

On March 8, pianist Yosuke Yamashita donned a fireproof suit and played a burning piano on a beach in Ishikawa prefecture. The improvised jazz performance went for about 10 minutes until the flames rendered the piano silent. This video shows a few excerpts.

Yamashita's performance was a reenactment of a similar one he gave in 1973, which was made into a short film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Awazu. You can see the complete 1973 performance on Awazu's website.

[Source: Sankei]

Video: Space Invaders 2003 – Ken Ishii vs. FLR

14 Mar 2008

Space Invaders 2003 --

The music video for Ken Ishii's "Space Invaders 2003" is a touching, behind-the-scenes look at a Space Invader family torn apart by war.

Mythical 16th-century disease critters

12 Mar 2008

Long ago in Japan, human illness was commonly believed to be the work of tiny malevolent creatures inside the body. Harikikigaki, a book of medical knowledge written in 1568 by a now-unknown resident of Osaka, introduces 63 of these creepy-crawlies and describes how to fight them with acupuncture and herbal remedies. The Kyushu National Museum, which owns the original copy of Harikikgaki, claims the book played an important role in spreading traditional Chinese medicine in Japan. Here are a few of the beasties found in the book.

Harikikigaki --

Kanshaku, an angry-faced bug found in the liver, aggravates its host by violently thrusting itself upward toward the chest cavity. Infected people tend to shout with rage or engage in activities to blow off steam, and they crave acidic food and avoid eating oily food. Acupuncture can stop Kanshaku.

Harikikigaki --
Hizo-no-kesshaku, Kanmushi

Hizo-no-kesshaku causes problems with the spleen, but it can be cured by ingesting shazenji (plantago seed).

Kanmushi is a harmful parasite that embeds itself in the spine, causing it to curve backward. Infected people also develop an appetite for spicy food. The herbs mokko (Saussureae radix) and byakujutsu (Atractylodes macrocephala Koidz) are effective in fighting off Kanmushi.

Harikikigaki --
Gyochu, Haimushi

Gyochu, a deadly critter responsible for leprosy, acts as a messenger to the underworld. On the night of Koshin-no-hi (an important date occurring every 60 days on the Chinese calendar), Gyochu leaves the body to visit Enma-daio (Lord of the Underworld) and tell him of your misdeeds. Enma-daio is known to punish people for bad behavior by reducing their remaining time on earth.

Haimushi, a creature with an appetite for rice, causes problems with the lungs. If the Haimushi exits the lungs and cannot find its way back, it turns into a fiery will-o'-wisp (hitodama) and the person dies. The herb byakujutsu is effective in warding off Haimushi.

Harikikigaki --

Male and female versions of the Kagemushi appear during sexual intercourse. When the two bugs come together, their wiry legs get tangled up, the female bug spits up red fluid, and the male spits up white.

Harikikigaki --
Hizo-no-kasamushi, Akuchu

Hizo-no-kasamushi, a worm found in the spleen, causes its host to gain or lose weight based on the amount of food it eats. The herbs agi (giant fennel) and gajutsu (purple turmeric) are effective in controlling Hizo-no-kasamushi.

Akuchu, also found in the spleen, consumes rice eaten by the host. Drinking mokko is an effective antidote.

Harikikigaki --
Haishaku, Kakuran-no-mushi

Haishaku, a critter found in the upper lungs, has a nose that opens directly into its chest. People infected with Haishaku hate pleasant smells and foul smells, but are fond of strong, fishy smells. Other symptoms include extreme sadness and a craving for spicy food. Gentle, shallow acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Kakuran-no-mushi, a worm with a black head and red body, invades the stomach and causes vomiting and diarrhea. It is known to come up into the host's mouth and poke its head out. Try to grab it, and you choke for air, but let go and it returns peacefully to the stomach. The herbs goshuyu (Euodia rutaecarpa), shazenshi and mokko are useful in fighting Kakuran-no-mushi.

Harikikigaki --

Umakan, a beastie that causes heart problems, infects people outdoors in the scorching sun or in the vicinity of fire. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Harikikigaki --

Koseu (Kosho), a snake-like critter with a scruffy white beard, wears a hat that protects it from medicine. It likes to drink sweet sake and it can speak.

Harikikigaki --

Kameshaku eats rice and wears an umbrella-like hat that blocks medicine. It can be destroyed by eating wild beans.

Harikikigaki --

Koshi-no-mushi flies into a host's body and makes its way to the lower back area, where it causes diarrhea, sweating and chest pains. The herbs mokko and kanzo (licorice root) are an effective treatment.

Harikikigaki --
Chishaku, Hizo-no-mushi

Chishaku (Taibyo-no-kesshaku) appears in the stomach after a severe illness. It can be controlled by applying shukusha (wild siamese cardamom).

Hizo-no-mushi is found in the spleen. It causes dizziness and hot flashes when it grabs the host's muscles with its long arms and claws. It can be stopped by ingesting mokko and daio (rhubarb).

Harikikigaki --
Kiukan and Kishaku

Kiukan (Gyukan) lives in the chest and acts up at meal time. This critter is difficult to get rid of, but acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Kishaku is a dark red beastie that causes its host to develop an unhealthy appetite for oily food. It can be stopped by eating tiger stomach.

Harikikigaki --

Jinshaku (Honton) resembles a tiny boar that runs wild through the body. Those infected with Jinshaku develop a weak pulse, a dark complexion, a craving for salty food, and bad breath. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.

Harikikigaki --
Hishaku, Hinosha

Hishaku is found in the spleen, most often in females. Symptoms include an overpowering appetite for sweets, a yellowish complexion, and a tendency to hum. It can be stopped with acupuncture around the navel.

Hinoshu, also found in the spleen, looks like a rock and remains dormant inside the body until the host visits a crowded sightseeing area, at which time Hinoshu causes dizziness by thrashing about and creating the sensation of rocks crashing against each other. Acupuncture is an effective treatment.

[Source: Kyushu National Museum]

Space boomerangs

07 Mar 2008

Do boomerangs return when thrown in zero-gravity? Japanese astronaut Takao Doi will soon find out by throwing some around inside the International Space Station.

Space boomerang --
Space boomerangs to be tested aboard ISS

When the Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on March 11, Doi will be carrying a pair of paper boomerangs presented by Yasuhiro Togai, a 2006 world boomerang champion and space enthusiast from Osaka. Togai, who long wondered how boomerangs would fly without the downward pull of gravity, suggested Doi conduct boomerang experiments in space after they met several years ago. Doi agreed, and Togai taught him how to throw. Togai believes the space boomerangs will spiral up and away without returning, but he says he is looking forward to the results.

[Source: Yomiuri]