Archives: July 2008

Video: ‘Daruma-otoshi’ skyscraper demolition

14 Jul 2008

Stop-motion video of building demolition --

Japanese construction firm Kajima Corporation is using an innovative new skyscraper demolition method to dismantle a pair of old company buildings in Tokyo. (Watch a time-lapse video.)

Unlike conventional demolition that begins at the top of the building, Kajima's new method starts on the bottom floor, where the support columns are cut and replaced with giant computer-controlled jacks. Once the floor is demolished and the debris removed, the entire building is lowered and work begins on the next floor. The process is repeated for each floor until the entire building is gone.

Kajima informally calls this the daruma-otoshi method, after the old Japanese game consisting of a daruma doll made of stacked pieces that players knock out one by one without toppling the doll. (Watch a super slo-mo video.)

According to Kajima, the daruma-otoshi demolition method -- which is now being used to dismantle a 75 meter (246 ft) tall, 20-story building and a 65 meter (213 ft) tall, 17-story building -- is safer and creates less noise and dust pollution because the work is kept close to the ground. In addition, this method cuts demolition time by 20% and makes it easier to separate and recycle the building materials.

[Link: Kajima]

Remote-control shopping robot

11 Jul 2008

tmsuk remote-control shopping robot --

Robot developer tmsuk has unveiled a remote-control robot that promises a new way to shop from the comfort of home. A prototype of the telerobotic shopper -- a modified TMSUK-4 humanoid robot that incorporates a variety of cellphone communications technology -- was demonstrated on July 10 at the Izutsuya department store in the city of Kitakyushu, Japan.

In the demonstration, an unwell grandmother unable to go shopping with her granddaughter sent the robot in her place. Using an NTT DoCoMo video-capable cellphone, the grandmother was able to control the robot and enjoy the shopping experience through the robot's camera eyes. As curious shoppers looked on, the woman maneuvered the robot to the hat section, eyed what was available on the shelf, and had her granddaughter model a few for her before deciding which one to purchase.

According to tmsuk, this innovative type of "3D communications" technology brings us a step closer to a future in which telerobotic shoppers roam the fashionable areas of cities like New York or London.

[Source: Data Max]


10 Jul 2008

Photographer Sato Jun Ichi explores the architecture of Japan's flood control infrastructure in a huge collection of photographs taken over a period of 10+ years.

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Ibaraki, 1997

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi -- Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Tochigi, 2006 // Saitama, 2007

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Saitama, 1999

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Chiba, 1997

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Saitama, 1999

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Saitama, 2006

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi -- Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Saitama, 2006 // Saitama, 2007

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Ibaraki, 1998

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Saitama, 1998

Japanese floodgate photo by Sato Jun'ichi --
Miyagi, 1998

Visit Sato's Floodgates site for about 600 more photos. (Use the links at the top left to scroll through the 37 galleries.) There is also a book.

Photo: JAL logo still visible in crop art

09 Jul 2008

JAL logo still visible in Inakadate rice paddy art --

This photo snapped by Aomori-based blogger Pochiko shows remnants of the JAL logo still visible in this year's Inakadate rice paddy art, several days after organizers attempted to "erase" it.

Read more: JAL logo uprooted from rice paddy art

Yen portraits fool age-verification cameras

08 Jul 2008

Hideyo Noguchi & Yukichi Fukuzawa --

Do these fellows look old enough to smoke? Yes indeed, say Japan's cigarette vending machines that use face-recognition technology to determine the age of the purchaser.

Just two weeks after a major sports paper reported that magazine photos could be used to fool vending machine age-verification cameras, an even more surprising flaw has come to light. The portraits of Hideyo Noguchi and Yukichi Fukuzawa printed on the 1,000-yen and 10,000-yen bills can be used to trick the high-tech machines, according to a new report on the Sankei Shimbun website.

On July 1 -- the day that Japan's cigarette vending machine age-verification system was rolled out nationwide -- Sankei reporters in Tokyo went out in search of machines equipped with age-verification cameras. They found that these machines treated them as adults and allowed them to purchase cigarettes when they showed the portrait of Yukichi Fukuzawa (the renaissance man and Keio University founder who appears on the 10,000-yen note) to the vending machine's camera-embedded mirror. The machines also reportedly sold cigarettes to the portrait of Hideyo Noguchi (the notable bacteriologist who discoveredcontributed to the understanding of syphilis), which appears on the 1,000-yen note.

Once the machines approved the sale, the reporters then used the same money to pay for the purchase, making this all-in-one technique even more convenient than the recently discovered magazine photo trick.

Ironically, news of this latest discovery comes just days after the Finance Ministry officially approved the use of face-recognition technology to determine the age of vending machine users.

Sankei contacted the Finance Ministry's Tobacco and Salt Industries Office about the flaw they found. A surprised official responded by saying, "This is the first we've heard of it. It's a big problem if it's true."

The official said he would immediately notify Fujitaka, the vending machine manufacturer who developed the age-verification camera system. Fujitaka is reportedly in the process of upgrading its face-recognition technology so that it can more effectively distinguish photographs from real people.

Of Japan's more than 500,000 cigarette vending machines, around 4,800 (less than 1%) are equipped with age-verification cameras. The rest are outfitted with readers that check Taspo age-verification cards, which are available to anyone of legal age who applies (though they have yet to become widespread). The vending machines that use age-verification cameras allow people to purchase cigarettes without a Taspo card, as long as they look older than 20 years of age.

[Source: Sankei Shimbun]

Related: Magazine photos fool age-verification cameras

Tentacle-themed swimwear display in Shibuya

07 Jul 2008

These oversized octopus stickers on the wall outside the Shibuya Parco building are dangerously close to the swimwear display.

Octopus on side of Shibuya Parco --

Octopus on side of Shibuya Parco --

Video: Supercar – Wonder Word

07 Jul 2008

Supercar: Wonderword --

A delightfully odd form of communication is at work here in this music video for Supercar's "Wonder Word." Directed by Koichiro Tsujikawa.

Related: Videos by Koichiro Tsujikawa (+ Cornelius)

JAL logo uprooted from rice paddy art

04 Jul 2008

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --

Has Japan Airlines' crop-based advertising gone too far? For some residents of Inakadate -- a small town with a big reputation for cultivating fantastic works of multi-colored rice paddy art -- the answer is "yes."

This year's crop art, which is Inakadate's 16th work since 1993, features giant images of Daikoku (god of wealth) and Ebisu (god of fishers and merchants) alongside the corporate logo for sponsor Japan Airlines (JAL). Here are a few photos of the rice paddy taken in June from the 6th-floor roof of the adjacent town hall.

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --

Inakadate rice paddy art, 2008 --
Daikoku (left), Ebisu (right) and JAL logo

The town committee responsible for the annual crop art project decided to incorporate advertising into this year's work to help offset rising costs associated with increased numbers of visitors. Last year more than 240,000 people came to see the crop art, and many of them used the town hall bathrooms and elevators (there is a nice view of the rice paddy from the roof), resulting in a costly utility bill.

However, the owner of the rice field, Ryuji Sato -- who also happens to be the former mayor of Inakadate and a member of the committee -- thinks the ad stinks. At the end of June he demanded the corporate logo be removed from his property.

"The idea has always been to create art that attracts lots of visitors and stimulates the economy," says Sato. "Turning it into a giant advertisement contradicts what we set out to do."

After a week of heated discussion, the committee voted to pull the ad, and on the morning of July 4, town hall employees were dispatched to the field to uproot the rice plants that make up the JAL logo. TV crews were on the scene. (Watch a Fuji TV news report.)

The video shows people removing rice plants only from the area occupied by the JAL symbol, which creates a very conspicuous negative space in the field. Ironically, this makes the logo more visible. It remains to be seen whether they can successfully remove all traces of the ad.

Workers remove JAL logo from rice paddy art --
Town hall employees remove JAL logo

Sato's critics are skeptical of his motives. Because he is on the ballot for this autumn's upcoming mayoral election, some believe he is trying to draw attention to his candidacy. Others think he may be taking revenge for the bitter 2004 mayoral election loss that removed him from office. Sato dismisses the criticism, saying that if he really wanted revenge, he would not have allowed the art to be grown in his field in the first place.

"I just can't stand the fact that they are trying to turn this into a commercial venture," says Sato, who hopes to see the rice paddy art tradition continue as it has in the past.

Meanwhile, the Aomori-based marketing agency that coordinated the advertising agreement with JAL does not know what to make of the situation. A company spokesperson says, "We obtained the committee's approval and signed a formal agreement, but yet it has come to this. We are baffled."

[Sources: Inakadate Village, To-o Nippo]

Nagasaki man busted for autonomous Digg robot

03 Jul 2008

Police in Nagasaki, Japan have arrested a man for developing a sophisticated robotic arm that uses a mouse and keyboard to autonomously Digg stories around the clock. Watch the "news report" for footage of the machine in action.

UPDATE: Ahem... In case it's not obvious (as it should be), this "news report" is intended as humor.