"Miruko," a wearable eyeball-shaped robot with a built-in camera and wi-fi capabilities, is designed to augment human perception by sensing and reacting to objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
In this video, Miruko's creators demonstrate how the robotic eyeball can be used as an interface for a virtual monster-hunting game played in a real-world environment.
Worn on the player's sleeve, Miruko's roving eye scans the surroundings in search of virtual monsters that are invisible to the naked human eye. When a virtual monster is spotted, the mechanical eyeball rolls around in its socket and fixes its gaze on the monster's location. By following Miruko's line of sight, the player is able to locate the virtual monster and "capture" it via his or her iPhone camera.
Other skills, such as the ability to recognize and track specific faces or objects, suggest the Miruko robotic eyeball interface could be put to use in a variety of navigation, surveillance, and augmented reality entertainment applications.
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:
Subject: Thank You For Interest in NSE
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.
Founder, NIPPON SHIN EISEI
A new online service developed by electronics giant NEC offers carbon-conscious households a fun and friendly way to keep tabs on their energy consumption, as well as that of their neighbors.
Developed in conjunction with major Internet provider BIGLOBE, the service -- called "Carbon Diet" -- includes an easy-to-install wifi-enabled device that attaches to the home circuit breaker and measures power consumption via electric current sensors. The collected data is then periodically transferred to the home computer using a ZigBee wireless link and sent to an online server for processing.
Users can log on to the Carbon Diet website to check their daily and hourly energy consumption and see how they rank in comparison with other participating households. Users can also see how their monthly carbon footprint compares with the same month of the previous year. Based on the degree to which users actually reduce their carbon emissions, they are awarded "eco-points" that can be exchanged for virtual soil, water, flowers and grass in a nature restoration simulation game.
Participants can also view their progress in the form of a game called "Carbon Ball," which features dung beetle avatars in a "carbon ball" rolling contest. The distance each household's dung beetle travels is based on how successful they are in reducing power consumption. The game is designed to instill a sense of competition to keep users motivated and focused on reducing energy consumption.
For now, the three-month trial service is being conducted in the homes of 100 NEC employees. After the trial, NEC and BIGLOBE will work with Ex Corporation (an urban and environmental planning and consulting firm) to analyze the data and develop business models for local governments and the private sector. The company is aiming for sales of 2 billion yen ($20 million) over the next 3 years.
To promote its laptops and showcase digital signage technology capable of utilizing real-time data over the Internet, electronics giant Toshiba tested an interactive digital billboard in Tokyo last weekend that allowed YouTube users and pedestrians with mobile phones to play video games against each other. (Watch a video of the game action.)
Played on a digital billboard above the entrance to the Yodobashi Camera superstore in Akihabara, each game involved up to six players in a 90-second race to paint squares on a grid and hunt for Toshiba's cuddly Pala-Chan mascot. Mobile phone players followed the action on the billboard and used the number keys on their handsets to control the game's paint brushes, while YouTube players on computers used the arrow keys on their keyboards. (More video.)
To participate, pedestrians in Akihabara called a phone number displayed on the billboard before the start of each game, while YouTube users simply clicked a button on Toshiba's toshibanotepc channel (where the game is still available).
Winners who played via mobile phone in Akihabara received Pala-Chan parkas from Toshiba representatives stationed near the billboard site.
The company plans to use similar interactive billboard games to promote other products around town in the future.
For mobile gamers in western Japan, a hearty seafood dinner awaits just a few key clicks away, thanks to a unique new cellphone fishing game that rewards successful players with home deliveries of fresh, real-world fish.
The game -- called "Ippon Zuri" (which means "pole-and-line fishing") -- was created by FIT, a Fukuoka-based system development company who teamed up with a local seafood wholesaler. Game play is simple: players use the phone keys to cast bait to promising-looking fish in the game's virtual waters, which include sea bream, crab, and other seasonal fish. When a fish takes the bait, the player is sent to a slot machine screen where, if luck prevails and 3 numbers line up appropriately, the virtual fish is hooked and reeled in. A message is then relayed to the wholesaler, who picks up the real-world equivalent from the local seafood market and delivers it, whole and raw, to the player's doorstep.
FIT president Hiromi Fukuda suggests that Ippon Zuri is more enjoyable than other fishing games because it allows players to eat what they catch. The game (which seems rather like a fancy seafood ordering system) promises more entertainment than a mundane trip to the supermarket and more convenience than a fishing trip to the seaside, and it makes a great pick-me-up for hungry fishermen feeling down on their real-world luck.
The game is open to Fukuoka-area NTT DoCoMo users who register at the Ippon Zuri site and pre-pay for the games (1,000 yen for 3 games) using Edy electronic money.
On a small island near Tokyo, people armed with Nintendo DS portable game consoles are scouring the terrain in search of clues that will lead them to a secret treasure. The activity is part of a unique, virtual-meets-real-world game called "Treasure Quest: Enoshima - Treasure of the Dragon," which was developed by Rush Japan, a Tokyo-based company that specializes in planning treasure hunts and tourism-related events.
The free game is open to Nintendo DS owners with the means to travel to Enoshima, a small island (4 kilometers in circumference) in the town of Fujisawa about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo. After picking up the free software, players are sent off to interact with their DS and move about the island in search of clues, which are obtained through both the physical environment and the game console. The game makes use of the DS's wireless capabilities, and at certain key locations on the island where players obtain clues, the on-screen scenery matches that of the physical surroundings. Players can locate the treasure after obtaining all the pieces of the puzzle and putting them together to solve the mystery, which the developers claim is no easy task.
Rush Japan, who developed the game as an innovative way to stimulate tourism, hopes the Nintendo DS's popularity with people old and young will attract a diverse group of players to the island. Their goal was to create a game that both the players and the locals would appreciate.
The treasure hunt is held from 10 AM to 4 PM every day until February 19, and reservations (required) are being accepted online through the Treasure Quest website. (The website and game are in Japanese.)
A 16-year-old male gamer infatuated with the gothic dress worn by the fictional princess in an online role-playing game has been arrested for hacking into the game company's servers and scamming a boatload of virtual money.
On January 24, Tokyo Metropolitan Police officers from the "Hi-Tech Crimes Control Center" arrested the high school student from Fukui, Japan and charged him with illegally accessing the website of Tokyo-based game company NEXON and stealing over 36 million yen ($325,000) worth of virtual currency used in the Mabinogi online role-playing game. The money can be used to purchase virtual items in the game, and it can be converted into real-world cash.
According to investigators, the suspect used software from an illegal website to obtain the ID and password of a former NEXON employee, which he used to access the company's servers from his home computer last October. Once inside NEXON's system, he registered a new ID and password and began filling his coffers with the in-game money.
While most of the loot went unused, the suspect allegedly converted 7 million points into about 600,000 yen ($5,500) worth of web money, which he used to purchase books and software.
The suspect has reportedly fessed up to the crime. "I originally wanted the dress worn by the princess," he admitted, "but I just ended up racking up a bunch of game points."