Tag: ‘Electronics’

Electronic sleep mask for worry-free train naps

17 Oct 2008

Noriko-san electronic sleep mask for train commuters --

For drowsy train commuters afraid of sleeping past their stop, inventor and manga artist Pyocotan has developed "Noriko-san," a sleep mask with an electronic scrolling display that communicates the wearer's destination to fellow passengers.

Noriko-san is designed to give sleepyheads greater peace of mind (and thus a deeper level of sleep) by increasing the odds that a stranger will wake them in time. In theory, other passengers feel compelled to act either out of courtesy or simply so they can sit in the empty seat left behind. Here's a video of Pyocotan testing a prototype on Tokyo's Yamanote line.

The video shows Pyocotan board the Yamanote line at Nishi-Nippori station. When a seat becomes available, he sits down, slips on the mask and goes to sleep. The mask's scrolling message reads: "I will get off at Mejiro station." Unfortunately, nobody wakes him up when he arrives. The test fails.

Pyocotan admits that Noriko-san is not 100% effective, perhaps because the unusual appearance makes other passengers feel uncomfortable and prevents them from acting. But the device will likely grow more effective as it becomes more widespread, he suggests. Until then, the fact that the mask might encourage others to act makes it a little easier for the user to relax and sleep more soundly.

Noriko-san cost about 20,000 yen ($200) to develop.

[Source: INTER News]

Photos: Robots at CEATEC 2008

01 Oct 2008

Robots old and new are on display at the CEATEC 2008 home electronics trade show currently underway in Chiba, Japan.

Nissan BR23C Biomimetic Robot Car at CEATEC 2008 --
Nissan BR23C Biomimetic Robot Car

Nissan unveiled the bumblebee-inspired BR23C Biomimetic Robot Car, which is equipped with a prototype collision avoidance system developed in cooperation with the University of Tokyo. The next-generation safety technology is modeled after the way that bees avoid crashing into each other.

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Mechadroid Type C3 at CEATEC 2008 --
Mechadroid Type C3

The Mechadroid Type C3 receptionist robot developed by Business Design Laboratory relies on face recognition technology, a touch panel display, speech, and facial expressions to interact with visitors and guide them to their destination.

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ifbot at CEATEC 2008 --

Ifbot -- also developed by Business Design Laboratory -- is a speech-capable robot that can identify emotions in the voice and word choice of the person talking. The robot can also communicate its own emotions with a range of facial expressions.

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Murata Seiko-chan and Seisaku-kun (Murata Boy) at CEATEC 2008 --
Murata Seiko-chan and Seisaku-kun (a.k.a. Murata Boy)

Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd.'s popular robot bicyclist, Murata Seisaku-kun (a.k.a. Murata Boy), was joined on stage by his recently-unveiled younger cousin, Murata Seiko-chan, who is well-balanced enough to ride a unicycle.

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Nabaztag at CEATEC 2008 --

The Nabaztag Wi-Fi Smart Rabbit manufactured by Violet is a bunny-shaped personal assistant that connects to your home wireless network.

Nabaztag at CEATEC 2008 --

In addition to announcing the latest news, weather and traffic information, the rabbit can tell the time, light up when email arrives, stream Internet radio and podcasts, and respond to spoken commands.

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Enon at CEATEC 2008 --
Enon leads the way to the wine section

Fujitsu's Enon robot demonstrated the ability to interact with customers and guide them to the wine section.

Enon at CEATEC 2008 --
Enon takes a break

Stretchable circuitry for soft machines

13 Aug 2008

Stretchable electronic circuit -- In a technological advance that opens up new possibilities in the fields of robotics and wearable computing, researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a stretchable, rubbery material that conducts electricity and can be incorporated into electronic devices.

The researchers -- led by assistant professor Takao Someya of the University of Tokyo -- were able to create elastic electronic circuits that could be stretched up to 1.7 times their original size without affecting performance, thanks to conductive wires made from a new carbon nanotube-polymer composite they developed.

In recent years, scientists have made advances in blending carbon nanotubes (good conductors of electricity) with polymers to make flexible conductive materials, but success has been limited because nanotubes tend to cluster together, causing the composite to harden when too many nanotubes are added. The University of Tokyo researchers were able to overcome this hurdle by mixing the nanotubes with an ionic liquid containing charged particles that keep the nanotubes evenly distributed and prevent them from clumping together. The result is a stretchable material that conducts electricity more than 500 times better than other commercially available carbon nanotube-polymer blends.

With the list of potential uses of stretchable electronic circuits limited only by the imagination, the researchers envision applications ranging from high-tech suits that enhance athletic performance and monitor the wearer's physical condition, to soft machines with flexible mechanical parts. For robots, elastic electronic circuits will enable layers of soft, sensor-laden skin to be stretched tightly across the curves of their bodies, giving them both a more lifelike appearance and greater sensitivity to touch.

The research results were published in the online edition of Science (August 8).

[Link: Yomiuri]

See also: Robot beauty goes skin-deep

Flexible, lightweight 125-inch plasma display

16 May 2008

Shinoda Plasma 125-inch flexible display --

Next-generation large-screen display manufacturer Shinoda Plasma has unveiled a flexible, 1-millimeter thick, 125-inch film-type prototype display that can be used as a curved or wrap-around screen. The 3 x 1 meter plasma tube array (PTA) display (which actually consists of 3 seamlessly integrated 1 x 1 meter square sub-modules) offers a resolution of 960 x 360 and weighs 3.6 kilograms (8 lbs), or about 10 times less than a conventional plasma display. At a low-key unveiling on May 15, Shinoda Plasma announced plans to exhibit the device in June at the InfoComm 2008 conference in Las Vegas and confirmed their intent to begin small-scale production of a 150-inch (3 x 2 meter) version this autumn. While Shinoda Plasma envisions a variety of digital signage and advertising applications, the ultrathin displays would also undoubtedly make good digital wallpaper for the home.

[Source 1, Source 2]

Solar-powered bra displays text, holds drinks

14 May 2008

Triumph Photovoltaic-Powered Bra -- Lingerie maker Triumph International Japan has unveiled a new eco-friendly concept bra called the "Solar Power Bra" (太陽光発電ブラ - Taiyoko Hatsuden Bra), which aims to stimulate eco-awareness and promote clean energy.

The green, high-quality cotton bra features a waist-mounted solar panel that powers a small, chest-mounted electronic billboard or any other electronic device you choose to connect. A pair of reusable drink containers attach to the bra cups, allowing the wearer to reduce consumption of aluminum cans and plastic bottles while increasing bust size. When not in use, the containers can be collapsed and stored in small pockets in the cups.

Triumph hopes the bra inspires people to think about global warming, the dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and the future of energy.

[Source: Nikkei]

A few of the many concept bras by Triumph:

- NO! Shopping Bag Bra
- Voter Turnout Lift-UP Bra
- My Chopsticks Bra

NTT Firmo transmits data through skin

24 Apr 2008

RedTacton human area network -- NTT has begun selling a device that transmits data across the surface of the human body and lets users communicate with electronic devices simply by touching them, the company announced on April 23.

The new product, called "Firmo," consists of a card-sized transmitter carried in the user's pocket. The card converts stored data into a weak AC electric field that extends across the body, and when the user touches a device or object embedded with a compatible receiver, the electric field is converted back into a data signal that can be read by the device. For now, Firmo transfers data at 230kbps, but NTT is reportedly working on a low-cost 10Mbps version that can handle audio/video data transfers.

Firmo is based on NTT's RedTacton human area network (HAN) technology, which is designed to allow convenient human-machine data exchange through natural physical contact -- even through clothing, gloves and shoes.

NTT initially hopes this human area network technology will appeal to organizations looking to boost convenience and security in the office. Obvious applications include secure entrances and keyless cabinets that recognize employees when they touch the door handle (thus bypassing the need for card-swipers and keys), or secure printers that operate only when you touch them.

For now, a set of 5 card transmitters and 1 receiver goes for around 800,000 yen ($8,000), but NTT expects the price to come down when mass production begins.

[Source: RBB Today]

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]

PC cases made from platinum, gold, diamonds

28 Jan 2008

Zeus Computer Jupiter (Platinum) and Mars (Gold) --

Tokyo-based Zeus Computer is reaching out to deep-pocketed celebrities and the nouveau riche with a line of luxury personal computers housed in bejeweled cases crafted from precious metals. The selection includes an 80 million yen ($760,000) pure platinum "Jupiter" model and a more modestly priced 60 million yen ($570,000) solid gold "Mars" model, both of which feature a blaze of inset diamonds patterned to look like the zodiac constellations and the Milky Way. The cases contain a 3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850-powered machine with a 256MB GeForce 7200GS VGA card, a 1000GB serial ATA hard drive, 2048MB of memory, a Blu-ray/HD-DVD optical drive and more, and Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate OEM comes pre-installed -- but who's going to look inside?

[Link: Zeus Computer via Negitaku]

Japan 2008: The year in preview

04 Jan 2008

The January 8 issue of DIME magazine takes a peek at some of the events, products and developments expected to have an impact on Japan in 2008. Here is a small taste of the many items mentioned in their preview (in no particular order).

Apple, Disney tap into Japanese phone market

iPhone -- Of the countless new electronic products to be unveiled in Japan this year, few are likely to generate the amount of buzz that will accompany the Japanese launch of the yet-to-be-announced 3G iPhone. For the time being, would-be iPhone fans are holding their collective breath for all the gory details and specs, which may or may not come out at MacWorld 2008 (January 14-18).

Disney is also expected to make a splash with its entry into the mobile phone service market in spring. Working with Softbank, Disney will deliver mobile content to subscribers and help to develop new handsets -- which means we can probably look forward to an explosion of character-themed phones as the year progresses. (On a separate but related note, Tokyo Disneyland will be holding a year-long celebration to mark its 25th anniversary. Festivities will include the grand opening of the 705-room Victorian-style Tokyo Disneyland Hotel this summer.)

Electronic turf wars

With a little luck, the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD format war should finally come to a head this year in Japan. Tsutaya, Japan's largest movie rental company, is weighing the pros and cons of each format and preparing to decide which one to put on its store shelves. Some analysts argue that Tsutaya's choice will play a decisive role in determining which camp ultimately prevails.

In a different type of turf battle, competition between major electronics retailers is intensifying as Yamada Denki (LABI) continues to beef up its presence around the major train stations in central Tokyo. In recent months, Yamada has opened large-scale outlets in Ikebukuro, Akihabara, Shimbashi and Oimachi, and rumors suggest more are to come this year in Shibuya and Shinjuku. Good news for shoppers.

Dubbing 10

While the Olympics are expected to fuel demand for home entertainment systems, there is another development that promises to inject a little excitement into the DVD recorder market. "Dubbing 10," a new digital content protection system set to launch this year, gives Japanese consumers more freedom to copy digital broadcasts (compared to existing restrictions). As the name suggests, the new system allows digital broadcasts to be copied up to nine times and transferred to another playback device once. Although the Dubbing 10 system does not allow copies to be duplicated, it is still good news for consumers who, under the current digital content protection system (CPRM), are only allowed one opportunity to copy or transfer broadcasts that have been flagged as "copy once." Dubbing 10-compatible recorders are set to hit shelves soon, and Toshiba and Panasonic have announced they will be offering Dubbing 10 software upgrades for existing "copy once" recorders.

The next "B-sport" sweetheart?

B-sport girls --

When it comes to nubile young female athlete idols, the letter "B" stands for beach volleyball and badminton. In 2007, beach volleyballer Miwa Asao raised eyebrows when she released a gravure DVD and posed for sexy Sabra magazine, while badminton doubles team Kumiko Ogura and Reiko Shiota (together known as "Ogushio") were the subject of a popular photobook. In 2008, "B" might also come to signify bowling, as 17-year-old bowling idol (or bowdol, as some like to say) Rina Asada rises to stardom. Last year, Asada began appearing regularly on Nihon TV's "P-League" late-night bowling program, which features amateurs and professionals competing in tournaments. She also won the women's national high school bowling championship in July and has been selected as a member of Japan's national team. Some say her popularity could help spark a bowling craze among the nation's youth.

Government vs. metabolic syndrome

In April 2008, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will begin implementing new guidelines to combat metabolic syndrome and reduce the burden of associated medical costs. In addition to calling for new metabolic syndrome-specific health checks for 40- to 74-year-olds enrolled in public insurance programs, the guidelines will include diet, exercise and lifestyle recommendations for reducing the risk of developing the syndrome.

On top of boosting health awareness, the guidelines are expected to spur growth in the emerging market for metabolic syndrome-related goods and services, which is estimated at about 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) in 2008. Fat-fighting food and drinks, such as Kao's popular Healthia teas and Suntory's oolong tea (kuro oolong cha), are expected to remain big-sellers, while new health-related devices, such as Omron Healthcare's pedometer that counts "aerobic steps" in addition to daily steps, are expected to appear.

suUhaa Atami -- This year will also see the rise of a new type of business in which medical institutions team up with fitness gyms to help customers fight metabolic syndrome. One such example is the Medical Fitness OreoS facility that opened in Okutama (Tokyo) in September 2007. Established through a partnership between the Seijo drug store chain and a medical corporation, the fitness center provides individual customers with health advice and exercise programs based on the results of thorough medical examinations. The company is looking to open new facilities in 2008.

Another such facility is suUhaa Atami, an upscale medical resort scheduled to open in the city of Atami (Shizuoka prefecture) in the fall of 2008. With a hotel, health clinic, gym and spa, suUhaa Atami aims to provide a unique short-term resort experience to Tokyo residents interested in fighting metabolic syndrome. The large-scale facility is also expected to stimulate the local economy.

Trouble in smokers paradise

Cigarette smokers in Japan will feel the pinch in 2008 as the country continues its crawl toward a smoke-free public environment. New rules that ban smoking in the vast majority of Tokyo taxis will take full effect on January 7. According to the two major industry groups that oversee 52,000 taxis in Tokyo (95% of the total), drivers are being instructed to accommodate the demands of chain-smoking passengers by pulling over and letting them out for nicotine breaks as needed. Drivers are also being provided with portable ashtrays to give to passengers while they smoke outside.

taspo card -- Smokers under the legal age of 20 will also feel the pinch as electronic age verification systems come to Japan's vast network of cigarette vending machines. In February, the Tobacco Institute of Japan will begin issuing age verification smart cards, called "taspo," which will need to be scanned at vending machines each time a purchase is made. Age-checking machines will start appearing in March, and the system is scheduled to be fully deployed nationwide by July. The taspo cards will also be equipped with an electronic money function, called "pidel," which will enable customers to make purchases with a simple swipe of the card (the machines will also allow users to add pidel funds to their taspo cards). It should not be long before taspo-capable cellphones begin to appear.

Japan-Brazil exchange year

Brazil --

In April 1908, the Kasato-Maru set sail from the port of Kobe carrying a group of Japanese emigrants headed to Brazil. Most of the passengers ended up working in harsh conditions on coffee farms, but the voyage marked the first of many to follow as Japanese emigrants felt drawn to the opposite end of the earth in search of a better life. Now, a century later, Brazil is home to 1.5 million ethnic Japanese -- the largest population outside Japan. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Kasato-Maru voyage and highlight the Japanese cultural legacy in Brazil, the nations have designated 2008 a Japan-Brazil exchange year. More than 100 special events ranging from music festivals to friendly soccer tournaments are scheduled in Japan this year.

[Source: DIME, Jan. 8, 2008 (print)]