Tag: ‘Health’

Gov’t to track citizens, prevent pandemic

19 May 2009

H1N1 --

Can GPS tracking technology prevent a swine flu pandemic? Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications hopes to find out this autumn by testing a mobile phone-based GPS tracking system that constantly monitors each individual's location and sends text alerts to participants if they cross paths with anyone who is later identified as a flu victim.

The proposed system relies on mobile phone providers to constantly track the subjects' geographical locations and keep chronological records of their movements in a database. When a person is labeled as "infected," all the past location data in the database is analyzed to determine whether or not anyone came within close proximity to the infected individual.

The system will know, for example, whether or not you once boarded the same train or sat in the same movie theater as the infected individual, and it will send you a text message containing the details of the close encounter. The text messages will also provide instructions on specific measures to take in response.

The primary purpose of the test, which will involve about 2,000 volunteers in both urban and rural areas, is to verify the precision of GPS tracking technology, estimate the potential costs of operating such a system, and determine whether or not such a system can be put into practical use.

To be of any real use in a place like Tokyo, a phone-based disease-tracking system would require the participation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of subscribers willing to have their locations tracked -- not a stretch given the popularity of wireless services such as NTT DoCoMo's "iConcier," which provides personalized, concierge-like services to individual mobile phones based on location data, shopping history, and other personal information.

From a privacy standpoint, opinions differ on the degree to which sensitive personal data such as location and travel history should be shared and used. With this in mind, the ministry will also explore the issue of psychological resistance to the use of personal information.

[Source: Asahi]

19th-century pregnant dolls

12 May 2009

Edo-period obstetric training doll, Japan --
19th-century obstetric training doll - Wada Museum [+]

In the 18th and 19th centuries, sideshow carnivals known as misemono were a popular form of entertainment for the sophisticated residents of Edo (present-day Tokyo). The sideshows featured a myriad of educational and entertaining attractions designed to evoke a sense of wonder and satisfy a deep curiosity for the mysteries of life. One popular attraction was the pregnant doll.

Vintage wooden pregnant mannequin, Japan --
"Light-skinned" pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum [+]

Although it is commonly believed that these dolls were created primarily to teach midwives how to deliver babies, evidence suggests they were also used for entertainment purposes.

Edo-era obstetric doll, Japan --
"Dark-skinned" pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum [+]

For example, records from 1864 describe a popular show in Tokyo's Asakusa entertainment district that educated audiences about the human body. The show featured a pregnant doll whose abdomen could be opened to reveal fetal models depicting the various stages of prenatal development.

Old wooden baby dolls, Japan --
Baby doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum [+]

Similarly, records of Japan's first national industrial exhibition in 1877 indicate a Yamagata prefecture hospital doctor named Motoyoshi Hasegawa showed off an elaborate set of fetus models illustrating seven different stages of growth, from embryo to birth.

Japanese pregnancy manikin, Japan --
Fetus model set (circa 1877) - Toyota Collection [+]

Although it is unclear whether the fetus model set pictured here is the same one Hasegawa showed in 1877, records suggest his model was a hit at the exhibition.

[Source: Geijutsu Shincho magazine, July 2001]

Stylish surgical masks by Yoriko Yoshida

30 Apr 2009

Illustrator Yoriko Yoshida has dreamed up dozens of colorful face mask designs that are sure to keep you looking cool and feeling safe as fears of swine flu spread across the globe.

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Octopus beard

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Rising sun

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Skull

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Wild boar

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Mt. FUJI

Surgical mask design by Yoriko Yoshida --
The mask of Beauty

[Link: Yoriko Yoshida's surgical masks]

‘Magic mirror’ shows real-time muscle data

02 Mar 2009

Magic mirror system by IRT --

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a computerized, sensor-based "magic mirror" that analyzes muscular activity and shows real-time computer-generated images of how hard the user's muscles are being worked while exercising.

The magic mirror, developed under the leadership of professor Yoshihiko Nakamura of the Information and Robot Technology Research Initiative (IRT), was unveiled at the University of Tokyo last Friday. In a demonstration for the media, the system's display monitor showed a real-time computer-generated image of a male model's musculo-skeletal system while he performed a series of physical exercises.

The system, which is currently capable of monitoring the activity of 30% of the body's roughly 300 skeletal muscle pairs, consists of 16 electromyographs (instruments that record the electrical waves associated with muscle activity) attached to the user's body, 10 motion-capture cameras, and a pair of floor sensors to measure the force exerted on the legs.

On the monitor, each muscle is shown in a different color depending on how much it is being used at a particular moment. Active muscles are shown in red, while inactive muscles are shown in yellow.

Magic mirror system by IRT --
(Muscle images can also be overlaid on the video image of the user's body.)

The magic mirror system uses newly developed software that is reportedly 10 times faster than previous technology, allowing the system to operate in real-time, even when the user is moving rapidly.

The researchers, who are already working on a more compact version that incorporates the cameras directly into the display, envision the system being used in homes, gyms and hospitals. In addition to helping people get into shape, the system might also help doctors more effectively treat conditions that affect the muscles.

[Sources: Robot Watch, Yomiuri, Nikkei]

Brain thinks ‘your pain, my gain’ (and vice versa)

13 Feb 2009

Envy in the brain -- Your gain, my pain? New research from Japan shows that the human brain treats feelings of envy like physical pain, while schadenfreude -- the pleasure derived from another person's misfortune -- triggers the brain's reward circuits. The findings, published in the February 13 online edition of Science magazine, suggest our brains may be wired to treat abstract feelings much more like concrete physical experiences than was previously thought.

Led by Hidehiko Takahashi of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS), the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to monitor the brain activity of 19 male and female university students while they read two stories about other fictional students.

The first story described the success of three characters: (A) a superior "rival" student of the same gender in the same field of study, (B) a superior student of the opposite gender in a different field of study, and (C) an average student of the opposite gender in a different field of study. The subjects were then asked to rate their own level of envy toward the characters on a scale of 1 to 6. Character A garnered the most envy and triggered a high level of activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which plays a key role in processing pain. The results indicate that the brain uses the same circuitry to process both social pain (envy) and physical pain.

The subjects then read a second story in which characters A and C suffer a series of misfortunes, including food poisoning and financial trouble. The fMRI data showed that the depiction of character A's hardships induced greater activity in the ventral striatum, the "reward reaction" area of the brain that normally lights up when receiving social and financial reward.

In addition, the researchers were able to predict which subjects would experience stronger schadenfreude (ventral striatum activity) when reading story 2, based on the degree of envy (anterior cingulate cortex activity) they experienced when reading story 1, suggesting a strong relationship between the way the brain processes the two feelings.

"We now have a better understanding of the mechanism at work when people take pleasure in another's misfortune," says Takahashi of the research. "Perhaps our findings can be put to use in the field of psychological counseling."

[Sources: Asahi, 47News]

Ultrasonic Bath: Human washing machine

10 Feb 2009

Ultrasonic bath/Human washing machine, Sanyo --

At the 1970 World Expo in Osaka, consumer electronics maker Sanyo demonstrated their vision for the future by showcasing a series of appliances they thought would populate the home of tomorrow. Included was the Ultrasonic Bath, a pod-like human washing machine that cleans, massages and dries the user in a fully automated 15-minute process.

- Ultrasonic bath demo video

Using a ladder, the bather climbs in through an opening on top of the machine, which stands about 2 meters (6 ft) tall. Once the desired water temperature is set and the main switch is activated, the pre-rinse cycle starts, spraying the user with jets of hot water for 5 minutes.

Ultrasonic bath/Human washing machine, Sanyo --

Next, the chamber fills up with hot water for a 3-minute massage bath. High-pressure jets create a powerful whirlpool, and scores of knobby, golf ball-sized "massage balls" suspended in the water pelt the body, delivering a vigorous massage intended to stimulate blood circulation. An ultrasonic wave generator creates a ticklish cloud of tiny air bubbles that lift dirt from the skin.

Ultrasonic bath/Human washing machine, Sanyo --

The bath is then followed by a 2-minute hot rinse cycle. Finally, a 5-minute dry cycle blasts the user with warm air, while a flood of infrared and ultraviolet light destroys any lingering germs.

Ultrasonic bath/Human washing machine, Sanyo --

Developed as a concept model, the Ultrasonic Bath never made it into our homes. Several years ago, however, Sanyo unveiled the $50,000 HIRB ("Human In Roll-lo Bathing") system, a compact version designed for use in elderly homes.


Tiny doll made of living cells

23 Jan 2009

Tiny doll made of cell capsules --

To demonstrate a new method for fabricating three-dimensional living biological structures, researchers at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science (IIS) have created a 5-millimeter tall doll composed of living cells.

According to an announcement made on January 22, the researchers created the tiny figurine by cultivating 100,000 cell capsules -- 0.1-millimeter balls of collagen, each coated with dozens of skin cells -- together inside a doll-shaped mold for one day. After the cell capsules had coalesced to form the doll-shaped mass of tissue, it was placed in a culture solution, where it reportedly survived for more than a day.

The researchers, led by IIS professor Shoji Takeuchi, also successfully tested the biofabrication method with human liver cells. According to Takeuchi, the technique can be used to create bodily organs and tissues with complex cellular structures, which may prove useful in the fields of regenerative medicine and drug development.

"The overall shape can be controlled by changing the mold," said Takeuchi, who expressed a desire to combine multiple types of cells to create a complex system that functions as a living organism.

[Sources: Yomiuri, 47NEWS]

Japanese blood mascots

21 Nov 2008

They may be cute, but they thirst for blood. These official mascot characters are tasked with recruiting blood donors in Japan.

Kenketsu-chan --

Japan's most well-known blood donation mascot is Kenketsu-chan ("blood donation girl"), a little pixie with big shiny drops of blood for ears. Kenketsu-chan is the official blood donation mascot of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which maintains a website devoted to the character.

Kenketsu-chan --

From the site, we know that Kenketsu-chan's ears shrink when she runs low on blood, but return to their original size when people donate. We also know that she comes from Tasuke Island (Help Island), which features a heart-shaped spring at its center. The spring shoots forth rainbows that carry Kenketsu-chan to wherever people need blood.

As the Japanese government's official blood donation mascot, Kenketsu-chan is often seen working alongside the nation's numerous regional mascots.

Kokoron-chan --

The blood donation mascot of Iwate prefecture is Kokoron-chan, whose name is derived from the word "kokoro" (heart). She was designed to evoke an image of peace, warm-heartedness and blood.

Kibichii-chan, Yuton-kun, OtasukeKetta-kun --
Kibichii-chan // Yūton-kun // Otasuke Ketta-kun

Kibichii-chan, who has been employed by Fukushima prefecture since 1996, takes her name from "kibitaki" (Narcissus Flycatcher, a songbird indigenous to the region) and "chi" (blood). Yūton-kun is from Kyoto, and Otasuke-ketta-kun is from Hokkaidō.

Aipii, Chiipitto --
Aipii // Chiipitto

Aipii works the blood drives in Ehime prefecture, and Chiipitto -- whose name is a play on the words "chi" (blood) and "kyūpitto" (Cupid) -- works in Hiroshima prefecture.

Ken-chan and Chii-chan, CrossKid-kun --
Ken-chan and Chii-chan // CrossKid-kun

Ken-chan and Chii-chan, whose names mean "donation girl" and "blood girl," serve the town of Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture. Standing side by side, they form the hiragana character for "i" (い), which stands for Iwaki and inochi (life). Akita prefecture's CrossKid-kun (Kurosukiddo-kun) is a cedar tree-shaped boy with a red cross on his chest. His name is a play on the words "cross," "kurosugi" (a type of cedar) and "kid."

Ebio-kun --

Ebio-kun, whose name is pronounced "A-B-O" (like the blood types), is the official blood donation mascot of Saitama prefecture.

Buratto-kun, Chii-tan --
Buratto-kun // Chii-tan

Buratto-kun, whose name means "blood boy," is employed by Aomori prefecture. Chii-tan, or "blood girl," works in Shiga prefecture.

Otasuke Kenta, Dr. Blood --
Otasuke Kenta // Dr. Blood

Osaka prefecture uses two mascot characters to attract donors -- Otasuke Kenta and Dr. Blood.

Blood-kun --

Finally, Blood-kun is the official blood donation character of Niigata prefecture. According to his website, Blood-kun carries a backpack full of blood. He has short legs but can run fast when hurrying to deliver blood, and his red hat turns into a flashing warning light in an emergency. The spiral on his stomach represents blood circulation. He appreciates it when people offer to fill up his backpack.

1,000 Paro robots migrating to Denmark

21 Nov 2008

PARO Mental Commit Robot --

The largest-ever migration of baby harp seal robots from Japan is about to begin, following an agreement by Denmark to purchase 1,000 of them for use in health care facilities. Paro, a human-interactive robotic seal developed by Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), has scientifically demonstrated the ability to elicit emotions, activate the mind and calm nerves in patients at hospitals and nursing homes, earning it the Guinness title of "world's most therapeutic robot." Although the well-traveled Paro now resides at welfare institutions in more than 20 nations around the world, the Danish government is the first organization to make a large-scale purchase. Denmark aims to have the Paro robots in their new homes by 2011.

[Sources: Jiji, Chunichi]