Various Japanese plants (and fungi) spring to life in Omni/ScienceNet's "Action Plant" series of time-lapse videos shot in Kōchi prefecture.
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The Tamori Club late-night variety show recently took a boat cruise through a system of drainage tunnels beneath central Tokyo.
Here are a few highlights of the trip.
1:00 - The boat approaches the tunnel entrance, located on the Kanda River next to Mansei-bashi Bridge near Akihabara. The drainage tunnel -- known as the Ochanomizu Diversion Channel -- runs 1.3 kilometers and rejoins the river upstream near JR Suidobashi station. The tunnel is not designed for boat traffic.
2:10 - Tamori tests the echo inside the tunnel.
2:25 - The painted numbers indicate the distance in meters from the entrance.
2:35 - The tunnel measures about 8 meters from floor to ceiling. The water level easily reaches the ceiling after a heavy rain.
3:00 - The boat approaches a round section of tunnel dug with a shield machine. This portion of the tunnel is 8.8 meters in diameter and 760 meters long.
3:50 - The passengers view the rails of a ceiling-mounted crane system used during construction. The crane was used to erect a water barrier to keep the construction area dry.
4:00 - The boat passes a floodgate tunnel on the left.
5:00 - The boat passes a sign reading "Eidan Ochanomizu Station." This type of sign was placed in the tunnel during construction to indicate the nearby infrastructure. Due to its proximity to the subway station, this part of the tunnel is built with extra reinforcements.
5:30 - The boat passes a similar sign for Ochanomizu-bashi Bridge.
5:55 - The boat passes a similar sign for Century Tower, a 19-floor office building.
6:00 - A smaller tunnel branches off to the right. The tunnel is too small for a boat, and the guide is not sure where it leads.
6:50 - The round section of tunnel opens up into a large chamber. During construction, this was a vertical shaft used to lower the shield machine underground. The rails of a ceiling-mounted crane system are visible overhead. A ladder leads up to a manhole on the street.
7:50 - The exit comes into view. Another tunnel continues past the exit for another 1.6 kilometers.
8:30 - The boat exits the tunnel and continues up the Kanda River.
9:30 - The boat passes a pipe pumping water out of the leaky Suidobashi subway station (Mita line).
11:00 - The boat enters another tunnel (Suidobashi Diversion Channel No.2), which runs for 500 meters.
The performance, called "Dance Robot LIVE! - HRP-4C Cybernetic Human," is the culmination of a year-long effort to teach the humanoid to dance. The routine was produced by renowned dancer/choreographer SAM-san (a member of the popular music group TRF who has worked with numerous well-known artists like SMAP and BoA), and the lip-synced song is a Vocaloid version of "Deatta Koro no Yō ni" by Kaori Mochida (Every Little Thing).
Here are a few photos of the performance.
At the CEATEC Japan 2010 trade show now being held in Chiba (Oct 5-9), Nissan is exhibiting a futuristic model of a solar-powered wireless charging station for electric vehicles.
Solar Tree: Coming in 2030 to a city near you
The envisioned tree-shaped charging station -- called the "Solar Tree" -- stands 12 meters (39 ft) tall and has three translucent round solar panels that follow the sun across the sky. With an expected conversion efficiency of 30%, the three solar panels together can generate 20 kilowatts of power. At the base of each tree is a clover leaf-shaped wireless charging pad that can recharge batteries from a short distance, without the use of cables or plugs.
As part of the exhibition, Nissan showed off the latest version of its EPORO robot car, which has been outfitted with a wireless power system. In addition to recharging itself under a Solar Tree, the robot can also repower itself on the go by receiving electrical energy via charging lanes on the road.
EPORO robot recharging under a Solar Tree
Solar Trees can be used individually as small-scale charging stations in urban areas, or they can be grouped into forests to produce energy on the scale of power plants. According to Nissan's design, a forest of 1,000 Solar Trees will be able to provide electricity for 7,000 households.
In addition to providing power, Solar Trees can provide some relief from the heat in summer. The translucent solar panels offer protection from UV light, while fine mist emitted from the edges of the panels works to reduce the temperature in the immediate vicinity.
Here is a selection of concept cars designed by Japanese automakers from 1957-2009.
Toyota Proto, 1957
Toyota Proto, 1957
Toyota Publica Sports, 1962
Nissan Prince Sprint 1900 Prototype, 1963
Toyota Concept, 1966
Mazda RX 87 (Bertone), 1967
Isuzu Bellett MX1600 (Ghia), 1969
Toyota EX-1, 1969
Toyota EX-II, 1969
Toyota EX-III, 1969
Mazda RX-500, 1970
Mazda RX-500, 1970
Nissan 126X, 1970
Nissan 270X, 1970
Nissan 216X, 1971
Nissan Skyline Concept, 1972
Toyota EX-7, 1972
Toyota RV-2, 1972
Toyota F101, 1973
Nissan AD-1 Concept, 1975
Nissan NX-21, 1983
Nissan CUE-X, 1985
Daihatsu TA-X80, 1987
Mitsubishi HSR II, 1989
Nissan Boga, 1989
Nissan Figaro Concept, 1989
Nissan FEV, 1991
Mazda London Taxi, 1993
Mitsubishi ESR, 1993
Suzuki EE-10, 1993
Nissan AP-X, 1994
Toyota Moguls, 1995 // Nissan Hypermini, 1997
Nissan TrailRunner, 1997
Nissan KYXX, 1998
Honda Fuya-Jo, 1999
Mazda Miata Mono-Posto, 1999
Isuzu Zen, 2001
Toyota POD, 2001
Isuzu FL-4, 2002
Honda IMAS, 2003
Honda KIWAMI, 2003
Honda Pro Drag Civic Si, 2003
Nissan Jikoo, 2003
Toyota FINE-S, 2003
Toyota MTRC, 2004
Infiniti Kuraza, 2005
Mazda Senku, 2005
Mitsuoka Orochi, 2005
Nissan Zaroot, 2005
Acura Advanced Sedan, 2006
Mazda Nagare, 2006
Nissan Terranaut, 2006
Acura Advanced Sports Car, 2007
Mazda Taiki, 2007
Nissan Mixim, 2007
Nissan Bevel, 2007
Nissan Pivo-2, 2007
Honda FC Sport Concept, 2008
Mazda Kiyora, 2008
Honda P-NUT, 2009
Infiniti Essence, 2009
Nissan Land Glider, 2009
Isuzu Fire Fighter 2
Isuzu Lunar Rover
Isuzu Super Heavy Dumptruck
Lexus Minority Report Concept, 2054
As a publicity stunt to demonstrate the durability of Evolta batteries, Panasonic's mascot robot is hiking the historic 500-kilometer (300-mi) Tōkaidō Road from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Evolta World Challenge III: Kyoto or bust! -- Photos via Sankei News
The Evolta humanoid, whose new design is meant to resemble an ancient highway traveler pulling a two-wheeled cart, measures 17 centimeters (7 in) tall and 40 centimeters (16 in) long. Constructed mostly of lightweight plastic, carbon fiber and titanium, the robot weighs about 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs). It is powered by 12 AA batteries and operated by remote control, and it can travel at a rate of 3 to 5 kilometers per hour (2-3 mph). If all goes according to schedule, the robot will complete the journey on December 10, after 49 days of walking.
On the 500-km Tōkaidō Road from September 23 to November 10, 2010
The Evolta robot is no stranger to endurance challenges. In May 2008 the battery-powered mascot climbed a 530-meter (1,740-ft) rope suspended from a Grand Canyon cliff, and in August 2009 it drove non-stop for 24 hours around the Le Mans race circuit, covering a distance of 23.7 kilometers (14.8 mi). Each feat earned the robot a Guinness World Record.
Evolta robot at Grand Canyon (2008) // Evolta robot at Le Mans (2009)
The current and previous versions of the humanoid were created by renowned roboticist Tomotaka Takahashi, founder of Kyoto University's Robo-Garage. The new robot features a hamster wheel-like design to facilitate movement over uneven surfaces, as well as a handcart that holds batteries. The batteries will be recharged once per day throughout the course of the journey.
Artist rendition of Evolta robot on Tōkaidō Road (2010)
The 500-kilometer (300-mi) Tōkaidō Road, which runs between Nihonbashi bridge in Tokyo and Sanjō Ōhashi bridge in Kyoto, served as Japan's most important transport artery during the Edo period. During its heyday in the 17th to 19th centuries, the road was one of the busiest highways in the world. In those days, it typically took travelers about 10 to 12 days to walk the route, weather permitting.
Tōkaidō Road photographed by Felice Beato in 1865
In the 17th century, the Tokugawa shogunate set up 53 post stations along the route, where travelers could find food, shelter and other services. These stations are perhaps best known through "The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō" series of woodblock prints by the great ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige, who first traveled the route in 1832.
Shinagawa, the first station on the Tōkaidō Road (print by Hiroshige)
The landscape has changed a great deal since then, and many of the old post stations have developed into towns and cities. The Evolta robot plans to pass through at least one station per day during the trek.
All of the action is being broadcast live on Ustream (morning to afternoon, Japan time).
The robot will also be tweeting its progress (in Japanese) at @evoltatoukaidou.
[Link: Evolta World Challenge III]
Fade Out, an eye-catching visual display system developed by media artists Daito Manabe and Motoi Ishibashi, uses laser beams to "print" ephemeral glow-in-the-dark images on a wall-mounted screen coated with photoluminescent paint.
After the computer receives and processes a digital image (in this case, a webcam snapshot), ultraviolet laser beams are fired at the photoluminescent screen to produce square pixels of glowing green light. Subtle gradations are created by controlling the timing of the laser shots and allowing the darker portions of the image to fade. The completed image gradually disappears as the glow of the screen grows dim.
The novelty of the system seems to make it well-suited for use in entertainment and advertising, and the creators are now looking at ways to create glowing images in liquid and on irregular surfaces.
Here is some video of the system being tested on a human face.
[Via: World Business Satellite]
Kawada Industries and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) have updated their 10-year-old line of HRP humanoid robots with an athletic machine they hope to develop into a menial worker.
HRP-4: Menial worker of the future?
The blue and white humanoid -- named HRP-4 -- stands 1.51 meters (5 ft) tall and boasts the body of a track-and-field athlete. The robot's 34 joints are more flexible than those of previous models, and at 39 kilograms (86 lbs), it weighs 4 kilograms (8.8 lbs) less than last year's entertainment-oriented HRP-4C fembot.
At the unveiling on Wednesday, the agile robot demonstrated a range of skills that may come in handy in the workplace, such as the ability to stand on one foot, twist its waist, strike poses, follow spoken commands, recognize faces, and track objects by moving its head. Its five-fingered hands are also more dexterous than those of its predecessors.
Kawada and AIST plan to begin selling the robots to universities and research institutions in January 2011 at a starting price of 26 million yen ($305,000) each.