Archives: August 2009

Moonbell: Lunar music generator

31 Aug 2009

moonbell --

Moonbell is an automated music generator that plays musical scores based on lunar topographical data obtained by Japan's Kaguya (SELENE) explorer during its orbit around the moon from late 2007 to June 2009.

[Launch Moonbell in a new window]

Moonbell, which was developed in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), has two playback modes: "Orbit Play" and "Free Scratch." Click the buttons on the bottom right of the screen to switch modes.

moonbell --

In Orbit Play mode, Kaguya traverses the moon in a circular orbit and music is generated based on the topography below. This screen displays Kaguya's orbital path, an altitude graph of the topography, and the corresponding musical notation map. Use your mouse to change Kaguya's location and orbit.

In Free Scratch mode, you can use your mouse to chart a path across the moon's surface. The corresponding music plays in a loop, regardless of how long the path is. The notes are visualized as different colors and patterns on the screen.

moonbell --

To tweak the audio output, click the "Preference" button on the bottom left of the screen. This opens the settings panel, where you can choose from 128 musical instruments for each track, change the playback speed, set the volume for each instrument, and more.

See the "About" page for a complete description of all of Moonbell's functions and controls.

[Link: Moonbell]

Photos: Good Design 2009

30 Aug 2009

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --

The annual Good Design Expo -- billed as one of the biggest design events in Asia -- showcases thousands of well-designed products under consideration for the year's Good Design Awards. Over 2,000 items ranging consumer electronics, automobiles and furniture to office equipment, building designs and sporting goods were exhibited at this year's event, which was held at Tokyo Big Sight this weekend (Aug 28-30). Here are just a few of the many eye-catching designs on display.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Freshness label [+]

One the most interesting items was this hourglass-shaped freshness label for meat products (designed by TO-GENKYO). The label contains special ink that changes color based on the amount of ammonia emitted by the meat (the older the meat, the more ammonia it releases).

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Freshness label [+]

Like an hourglass, the bottom half of the label "fills up" as the meat ages. Consumers can judge the product's freshness at a glance.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Freshness label (with 1/2 price tag) [+]

When the meat is no longer suitable for sale, the ink blocks the barcode at the bottom so that it cannot be scanned at the cash register.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Hana-Akari [+]

These stylish Hana-Akari interior lamp shades by Sony are actually dye-sensitized solar cells that mimic photosynthesis by storing energy in a thin membrane. The shades collect sunlight during the day and power the lamp at night.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
"Concent" USB hub that looks like wall outlet (by ELECOM) [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Lotte "Fit's" gum package [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
LED desk lamp [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Kissing Octopus Couple USB flash drives [+]

The magnetized mouths of these Kissing Octopus Couple USB flash drives (by A-Data) allow them to function as magnetic stickers when not plugged into a computer. The USB connector tucks neatly inside the body.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Kissing Octopus Couple USB flash drives [+]

When two are placed face to face, they lock together in a magnetic kiss (making them an ideal gift for Valentine's Day).

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Restroom Item 01 urinals by Toto [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Balsa Max fishing lure [+]

The eye-catching Balsa Max fishing lures by Megabass are built using cutting-edge technology and natural materials.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
D-Clips (animal-shaped paperclips by Designphil) [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Animal rubber bands (by +d.) [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo -- Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Honda Walking Assist Device [+] [+]

Honda's experimental Walking Assist Device helps support the wearer's body weight, reducing the load on the legs while walking, going up and down stairs, and crouching.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
"Palook" spiral fluorescent bulbs by Panasonic [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Rice spoons that stand on end [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Disposable AED pads [+]

These disposable pads are designed for use with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) placed in public areas. The imprinted design shows where to attach the pads to the body -- helpful information for the first-time user.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
Candy-colored portable hard drives (by A-Data) [+]

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
QLD-101 table lamp [+]

The QLD-101 table lamp (designed by Qisda Corporation) is a modular LED light fixture composed of crystal-like units that connect together with magnets. The polyhedral units can be easily configured into a variety of shapes, and the low-temperature LEDs prevent them from becoming hot to the touch.

Good Design Expo 2009, Tokyo --
QLD-101 table lamp [+]

The interactive lamp, whose design was inspired by natural crystals, gently cycles through a spectrum of colors.

RIBA robot nurse bear

27 Aug 2009

Meet RIBA, a robot nurse that resembles a friendly bear.

RIBA, Robot for Interactive Body Assistance --

RIBA -- short for "Robot for Interactive Body Assistance" -- was developed by researchers at Japan's Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) and Tokai Rubber Industries, Ltd. (TRI). Designed primarily to assist nurses by lifting patients in and out of their beds and wheelchairs (as well as on and off the toilet), the 180-kilogram (400-lb) robot can safely pick up and carry people weighing as much as 61 kilograms (135 lbs).


+ Video

The cheery-looking machine has long, multi-jointed arms embedded with an array of tactile sensors that help it optimize the lifting and carrying of humans. For safety purposes, RIBA's entire body is covered in a soft skin molded from an advanced lightweight urethane foam developed by TRI. The soft skin is designed to ensure the comfort of patients while they are being carried. In addition, the arm joints yield slightly under pressure -- much like human arms do -- further increasing the level of comfort and safety.

The robotic bear can also recognize faces and voices, as well as respond to spoken commands. Using visual and audio data from its surroundings, RIBA can identify co-workers, determine the position of those nearby, and respond flexibly to changes in the immediate environment. The motors operate silently, and a set of omni-directional wheels allow the robot to navigate tight spaces inside hospitals and nursing facilities.

RIBA, Robot for Interactive Body Assistance --

Japan, which faces an impending shortage of nurses as the population grows older, is looking at ways to offset the inevitable challenges that medical institutions will encounter in the coming years. Technology is regarded by some as the solution to this problem, and a considerable amount of government and private research is being devoted to developing robots capable of working in the healthcare field.

RIBA is an upgraded version of RIKEN's RI-MAN, a robot nurse assistant developed in 2006 that was only able to lift dolls weighing 18.5 kilograms (40 lbs). In addition to better strength and perception, RIBA's improved information processing technology allows it to crunch data at least 15 times faster than RI-MAN. This allows RIBA to move faster and with more confidence than its predecessor.

RIBA, Robot for Interactive Body Assistance --

RIBA's creators say they chose the friendly teddy bear appearance to put patients at ease. Attempting to make the robot look human would only frighten people, they claimed in their press release.

RIKEN and TRI plan to put RIBA to work in hospitals within the next five years.

[Source: RIKEN (JP) // Added Sep 1: English press release]

Psychedelic posters by Aquirax Uno

27 Aug 2009

Graphic artist Aquirax Uno, a prominent figure in the Japanese underground art scene of the 1960s-1970s, is famous for creating psychedelic posters featuring strange (and occasionally grotesque) eroticism, bright colors, and elements of collage.

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
First Love Inferno, 1968 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Keiko's at Marubutsu Department Store, 1967 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Michelangelo's Expression, 1968 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Display Exhibition, 1969 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Untitled, from "Mono Aquirax" [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Sailor 21 Gold Fountain Pen, 1968 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
"Aquirax Uno Collection" Exhibition Poster, 1968 [+]

Poster by Aquirax Uno --
Mini Books, 1967 [+]

The images here (and more like them) are from the website of Tara Sinn, who has also posted a 2007 interview with Uno.

A selection of Uno's original posters can also viewed at Kawasaki City Museum as part of the "Graphic Design in the 60s and 70s" exhibit that runs until October 4 (free).

Video: Anatomy of WAHHA GO GO

26 Aug 2009

Maywa Denki president Nobumichi Tosa has created a video detailing the inner workings of the manually-operated WAHHA GO GO laughing machine.


+ Video

According to the video, WAHHA GO GO is activated by spinning the torso-mounted metal disk (an optional crank arm can be used for greater speed). The disk's rotational energy is transferred to the machine's left and right arms via a gear assembly in the lower back. As the arms rotate, the accordion-like lungs expand upward, drawing in air that is then exhaled through the machine's artificial vocal cords.

Another set of gear wheels in the spine transfers some of the spinning disk's rotational energy to the head assembly, which includes a pair of tiny arms that stretch and relax WAHHA GO GO's artificial vocal cords (thus regulating the pitch), as well as an arm connected to a valve that controls the flow of air from the lungs. This arm also opens and closes the mouth, which alters the so-called "formant characteristics" (resonant frequency) of the laugh, producing the "wa" and "ha" sounds.

By incorporating a series of mechanisms that work together to control the pitch, resonant frequency, and amount of air supplied to the artificial vocal cords, WAHHA GO GO is able to produce an uncanny human-like laugh.

[Link: YouTube]

Phasma insectoid robot (w/ video)

24 Aug 2009


+ Video

Phasma, a six-legged remote-controlled robot by takram design engineering, is built to run rapidly and dynamically like an insect.

Phasma insect robot by takram design engineering --

Described as an attempt to mimic a living organism purely through its motion, rather than its shape, the mechanical bug employs a design that reproduces some of the physics at work when an insect runs.

Phasma insect robot by takram design engineering --

Using components such as sliding cables, stainless steel springs and rubber joints, the designers were able to replicate the smooth and efficient locomotion seen in insects.

Phasma insect robot by takram design engineering --

Particularly interesting is Phasma's use of the so-called alternating tripod gait, a highly stable walking pattern commonly used by insects in the natural world.

Phasma insect robot by takram design engineering --

The video embedded above shows the Phasma at a recent demonstration at 21_21 Design Sight at Tokyo Midtown.

Phasma insect robot by takram design engineering --

[Link: takram design engineering]

‘Solar UFO’ water cleaners afloat in Osaka canals

20 Aug 2009

Solar UFO --

As part of the upcoming Aqua Metropolis festival in Osaka, engineering firm NTT Facilities has developed a pair of solar-powered, UFO-shaped floating water purifiers that will be deployed in the city's canals and in the moat at Osaka Castle.

The disc-shaped machines -- called "Solar UFOs" -- weigh about 3.4 tons each and measure 1.6 meters (5 ft) tall and 5 meters (16 ft) across. During the day, an array of solar panels power the machine's filtration system, which pumps fresh oxygen into the water while removing impurities. At night, a 1.3-kilowatt solar battery provides juice to the LED lamps lining the edges of the floating craft.

Solar UFO --

The machines, which can purify about 9,000 liters (2,400 gallons) of water per day, spray the clean water out through a nozzle on top, like a fountain. In addition to keeping the surface clean of bird droppings and grime, the water spray keeps the solar panels cool, helping to maintain a high output efficiency.

The Solar UFOs are built using technology developed by NTT Facilities, a Tokyo-based company (part of the NTT Group) whose business includes architecture, construction planning, power supply system design, and the management of large-scale solar power plants. The water cleaners are currently not for sale.

Solar UFO --

Plans are to keep one Solar UFO operating in the Dotonbori canal (in central Osaka) until mid-October. The one in Osaka Castle moat is scheduled to remain in operation until the end of March 2010. NTT Facilities also announced plans to deploy Solar UFOs in Tokyo-area waters in the near future.

[Source: Asahi]

Ghost paintings by Kyosai

20 Aug 2009

Here to haunt the waning days of summer are three chilling ghost paintings by Meiji-period artist Kawanabe KyŨsai (1831-1889).

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1868-1870 [+]

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1870 [+]

Ghost painting by Kyosai --
Ghost painting by Kyosai, 1883 [+]

Related:
- 19th-century ghost scrolls at Zenshoan temple
- Sketches of hell by Kyosai

The Junsui Project

19 Aug 2009

The website for a genetic enhancement company called Nippon Shin Eisei (Japan New Health) features an eerie Flash-based introduction to the Junsui Project, which profiles a genetically-altered individual named Junko (who's at the center of what looks like an alternate reality game or viral marketing campaign).

From the site (which can be viewed only once before an "error message" is displayed):

"For countless millenia, humans have evolved unconsciously, spreading out to populate the world. For the first time ever, we may glimpse our long genetic inheritance... And from it, we may plot the path by which we wish to continue. Junko is the first child of her type ever to be born. She and the other Junsui are the children of ALL mankind. Through the new technology of genetic target augmentation, Junko has been gifted with only the most optimal human alleles. Junsui are the best of all we have ever been, and therefore represent the best way of coping with an uncertain future."

The Nippon Shin Eisei website claims to offer customers access to revolutionary new gene enhancement technology that can ensure the best possible future for their unborn children. Most of the site appears to be password-protected, but if you send an email requesting one of their test kits, you will get the following response:

From: infoSPLATshineisei.jp
Subject: Thank You For Interest in NSE

Dear Consumer:

Thank you for interest in Nippon Shin Eisei.

Due to overwhelming response, Nippon Shin Eisei has temporarily decided to issue a cessation of test kit distribution by mail.

We foresee the ability to distribute kits again in the near future. We are proud to announce that NSE is currently undergoing a transition to a new office and laboratory facilities which will enable us to accommodate a much larger volume. At which time this becomes a possibility, you will be informed by electronic mail.

If you are in the Matsuyama area, please feel free to schedule a genetic analysis through our office. Please note that samples from both prospective parents are necessary.

Thank you for your interest in the More Than Me and Junsui programs.

Best Regards,

Masa Tatenuma
Founder, NIPPON SHIN EISEI
http://shineisei.jp

“Yourself as you wish to be remembered.”

[Link: Junsui Project Introduction]