Archives: July 2008

Circuit-bent Pikachu instruments

29 Jul 2008

Circuit-bent Pikachu instruments --

Circuit bender Kaseo has a marvelous collection of musical instruments built from modified Pikachu toys.

- Bent Pikachu Limited Edition: Punk's not dead.

* * * * *

- Y.M.O.: This "Y.M.O" (Yellow Mouse Orchestra), a group of MIDI-controlled circuit-bent Pikachus, performs a tweaked version of "Rydeen" by the original Y.M.O. (Yellow Magic Orchestra).

* * * * *

- 12 bent Pikachu orchestra +1: Live performance in Tokyo.

* * * * *

[Links: bEnt or diE?, Kaseo's Youtube channel]

Robot sea bream

25 Jul 2008

Robot sea bream --

Engineers at the University of Kitakyushu have developed an underwater survey robot that looks good enough to eat. "Tai-robot-kun," a 7-kilogram (15.4 lb) robotic sea bream (red snapper) with a silicone body covered in realistically hand-painted scales, features a unique propulsion system that allows it to move its tail and drift silently through the water like a real fish. (Watch a video.)

The robotic fish can swim for an hour on a full battery charge, and it relies on a ballast system similar to those used in submarines to adjust its buoyancy and depth.

Tai-robot-kun's creator, professor Ikuo Yamamoto, says the robot can easily be mass-produced, outfitted with various cameras and sensors, and released into the sea to perform a wide range of oceanographic survey tasks. He adds that because the robot swims silently and looks like a real fish, it would be able to gather data without alarming the creatures it encounters.

Yamamoto and his team are also reportedly developing a robotic manta ray that uses some of the same technology.

[Source: Robot Watch]

Video: Actroid stars in TV commercial

25 Jul 2008

Actroid female robot actress --

Actroid DER-2, Kokoro's uncannily lifelike fembot, has made her acting debut in a TV commercial for Kincho's Preshower UV insect repellent/sunscreen spray. Titled "The Woman Who Doesn't Rust," the 15-second commercial spot shows Actroid outdoors at a campground, where she recommends using Preshower because, as a female, her skin is important. After a few squirts of the spray, she cheerily adds, "Surprisingly, I don't rust." (Watch it.)

*** Updated with higher quality video ***

Fake Mickey Mouse Olympic statues in Beijing

24 Jul 2008

Fake Mickey Mouse Olympic statues in Beijing --

The Yomiuri Online has posted a photo of some new Olympic-themed statues on display in Beijing's financial district. The statues -- which appear about one year after Disney cried copyright infringement in response to a host of knock-off Disney characters at Beijing's Shijingshan Amusement Park -- depict five Mickey Mouse-like characters engaging in Olympic sports. When asked about the resemblance to Mickey, a spokesperson replied, "They have square holes in their ears. They are not copies." The spokesperson suggested the statues are unique because they incorporate the themes of old Chinese coins (the square holes), the year of the rat, the Olympics and the financial district into the design. However, children passing by the statues were seen pointing and saying, "Look! It's Mickey!"

Light-sensitive shape-shifting plastic drives motor

23 Jul 2008

Motor powered by light-activated plasticA research team led by professor Tomiki Ikeda at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has developed what is being called the world's first plastic motor powered solely and directly by light.

Unlike solar-powered motors that use photovoltaic cells to convert light to electric power (and which require wires and batteries to deliver and store the power), this first-of-a-kind motor converts light directly into mechanical energy, thanks to a belt made from a special elastomer whose molecular structure expands or contracts when illuminated, depending on the wavelength of light.

Ikeda began working on the light-activated motor in 2003, after discovering that a plastic compound containing azobenzene would contract when exposed to ultraviolet light and resume its original shape when exposed to visible light. Since then, in addition to working on improving the material's shape-shifting properties, Ikeda's team has been looking at ways to use the material in a motor that converts light directly into motion.

To test whether the material could be used as a mechanical power source, the researchers coated a polyethylene film with the shape-shifting plastic to create a 0.08-millimeter thick belt, which they looped around a pair of wheels measuring 10 millimeters and 3 millimeters in diameter. Then, by shining ultraviolet light on the belt near the smaller wheel and visible light near the larger wheel, the belt snapped into action and began turning the wheels. The larger wheel recorded a top speed of 1 rpm.

According to the researchers, the film demonstrated about 4 times more elastic strength than human muscle, and its strength remained unchanged even after contracting and expanding every 7 seconds for 30 hours.

"The material is still not very efficient at converting light to energy, but it can be improved," says Ikeda, who suggests the shape-shifting plastic can be used in larger-scale applications. He hopes to one day see the material used to power plastic automobiles and other fantastic plastic machines.

The results of the research were published in the July 19 edition of the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

[Source: Tokyo Shimbun]

Time-lapse video of rice paddy art

22 Jul 2008

This time-lapse video of the 2008 Inakadate rice crop art is composed of still images captured daily from June 1 to July 3, 2008 via the roof webcam at the adjacent town hall. The 3.7-acre work features the images of Daikoku, god of wealth (left), and Ebisu, god of fishers and merchants (right), which were created using five different colors of rice plants. On July 4, just as the crop was beginning to mature, the organizers shut down the webcam when they removed the JAL ad portion of the artwork at the request of the rice paddy owner.

Monster octopi with scores of extra tentacles

18 Jul 2008

96-armed octopus --

In nature, it is quite rare to encounter octopi with extra tentacles (or "arms," for the purists), but a pair of aquariums in Japan's Mie prefecture have some extraordinary specimens on hand.

The permanent display at the Shima Marineland Aquarium in the town of Shima includes a 96-tentacled Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris) that weighed 3.3 kilograms (about 7 lbs) and measured 90 centimeters (3 ft) long when it was captured in nearby Matoya Bay in December 1998. Before dying 5 months later, the creature laid eggs, making it the first known extra-tentacled octopus to do so in captivity. All the baby octopi hatched with the normal number of tentacles, but unfortunately they only survived a month.

96-armed octopus --
96-tentacled octopus laying eggs

The preserved octopus actually has the normal number of 8 appendages attached to its body, but each one branches out to form the multitude of extra tentacles. Apparently there is no theory that fully explains the surplus tentacles, but they are believed to be the result of abnormal regeneration that occurred after the octopus suffered some sort of injury.

* * * * *

The Toba Aquarium in the nearby town of Toba also has a few extraordinary octopus specimens, although they no longer appear to be on permanent display. Every now and then, though, the aquarium pulls them out of storage for the world to see.

85-armed octopus --
85-tentacled octopus at Toba Aquarium

Their most well-known specimen is an 85-tentacled Common Octopus captured in 1957 at nearby Toshijima island. This remarkable creature -- which, like the Shima Marineland octopus, has 8 main arms that branch out to form scores of tentacles -- made quite a stir when it first went on display at Toba Aquarium a half-century ago. A few years later, the specimen was loaned to the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, where it famously caught the attention of the Showa Emperor.

The renowned creature eventually returned to Toba and went on permanent display until the aquarium moved to a new location in 1985, at which time it was placed in storage. Twenty years later, in 2005, the specimen entered the spotlight again when it was put on temporary display.

In the 50 years since the 85-tentacled octopus was captured, the Toba Aquarium has exhibited 6 other mutant octopi, most of them alive for a time, and each with between 9 and 56 tentacles.

[Related: Photo: Nine-tentacled octopus]

Emperor analyzes tanuki dung in name of science

17 Jul 2008

Tanuki --

When not carrying out his official duties as monarch of Japan, Emperor Akihito takes a deep interest in scientific research. A keen ichthyologist, the Emperor has published dozens of scientific papers on members of the goby family, and his work is so well known that the recent discoverers of a new goby species (Exyrias akihito) named their fish after him.

But while most of the Emperor's past work has focused on gobies, his latest research investigates the feeding habits of wild tanuki -- also known as raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) -- that inhabit the spacious grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The research, which was published in the Bulletin of the National Museum of Nature and Science in June, involved the analysis of tanuki dung samples collected from the Imperial Palace grounds between April 2006 and December 2007. In all, 169 samples were collected from 30 "dung accumulation sites" (apparently, tanuki have certain preferred locations they use again and again). The samples were inspected for remnants of undigested materials that revealed the tanuki's feeding habits and seasonal changes in diet. At his own request, the Emperor performed the dirty work himself.

The Emperor's findings, which were written with the assistance of four researchers from the National Museum of Nature and Science, suggest that the tanuki inhabiting the forested area around the Imperial Palace feed heavily on nuts, insects (especially ground beetles) and birds -- unlike their suburban cousins who subsist on a steady diet of human garbage.

[Source: Yomiuri, Asahi]

Animalistic digital art by Ryohei Hase

15 Jul 2008

These computer-generated illustrations of feral animal-headed people are from Ryohei Hase's collection of digital art (NSFW).

battle - by Ryohei Hase --

Go forward and forward - by Ryohei Hase --
Go forward and forward

Child's Mind - by Ryohei Hase --
Child's Mind

Also visit his deviantArt gallery for hi-res versions of these and other works.

[Via: Drawn!]