Tag: ‘Keio-University’

Oto-Shigure: Umbrella loudspeaker

06 Nov 2008

Oto-Shigure umbrella speaker --

Oto-Shigure, a high-tech umbrella that functions as a personal audio speaker system, gives music lovers a reason to dance in the rain. Developed by Keio University and IT company Toa Engineering, Oto-Shigure looks like an ordinary traditional Japanese umbrella made of bamboo and oiled paper, but the entire object emits sound when connected to an iPod or other portable audio device, thanks to a tiny built-in amplifier and four small vibrating motors mounted along the periphery, which effectively turn the canopy into a large speaker cone. The umbrella produces a highly localized three-dimensional sound space audible only to the people underneath, so it can be used in public without disturbing the peace.

Oto-Shigure umbrella speaker --

After filing a patent application for Oto-Shigure last September, inventors Yusuke Kamiyama and Mai Tanaka worked with Toa Engineering to complete a prototype earlier this year. They are now showing it off to the public to gauge user interest. If the response is positive, they plan to begin selling the audio umbrella next year for under 10,000 yen ($100).

[Source: Asahi]

Midori-san, the blogging houseplant

07 Oct 2008

Midori-san, the blogging houseplant --
Midori-san, the blogging houseplant, at bowls Donburi Cafe in Kamakura

If houseplants could blog, what would they say? To find out, Kamakura-based IT company KAYAC Co., Ltd. has developed a sophisticated botanical interface system that lets plants post their thoughts online. A succulent Sweetheart Hoya (Hoya kerii) named "Midori-san" is now using the system to blog daily from its home at bowls Donburi Cafe in Kamakura.

The plant interface system, which is built around technology developed by Satoshi Kuribayashi at the Keio University Hiroya Tanaka Laboratory, uses surface potential sensors to read the weak bioelectric current flowing across the surface of the leaves. This natural current fluctuates in response to changes in the immediate environment, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, electromagnetic waves and nearby human activity. A specially developed algorithm translates this data into Japanese sentences, which are used as fodder for the plant's daily blog posts.

Midori-san, the blogging houseplant --
Diagram of plant interface system

Midori-san started blogging about a week ago. So far, the plant's highly structured posts summarize the day's weather, temperature and lighting conditions, describe its overall physical condition, tell how much light it received via the user-activated lamp (see below), and explain how much fun the day was. Each post also includes a self-portrait photo and a plant-themed pun (in Japanese), which Midori-san likely did not write. A graph at the top of the sidebar shows the plant's surface potential in real-time.

Readers can also treat Midori-san to a dose of fluorescent light either through the website or this widget:

To activate a web-controlled fluorescent lamp positioned next to the plant inside the cafe, click the "Give Light to Midori-san" (?????????) button at the bottom of the widget, enter your name (or a nickname), and click OK. (Get the widget code here.)

Once the lamp activated, the widget shows a real-time view of Midori-san under the light.

Judging from the blog content and the numerous "thank yous" below the fold of each post, Midori-san seems to really appreciate every chance it gets to photosynthesize.

In addition to exploring the potential of intelligent networks that involve the natural environment around us, KAYAC hopes this entertaining plant interface system will inspire people to think about the environment in new ways.

[Link: Kyo no Midori-san]

Kage Roi idea acceleration system

26 Jun 2008

Kage Roi -- IT company Kayac has teamed up with researchers from Keio University to develop a high-tech brainstorming room that listens to its inhabitants and feeds them a barrage of related data and images in order to boost creativity and fuel the imagination.

The system -- called "Kage Roi" -- relies on a speech-recognition capable computer that monitors the brainstorming session via microphone, identifies keywords, and automatically crawls the web in search of related information and images. A ceiling-mounted projector then casts the retrieved data and imagery onto dark, human-shaped shadows on the table during the course of the meeting. The brainstormers can free-associate on the projected data, use it as a tool for discussion, or rely on it for helpful cues if ideas are running short.

Kage Roi also features an ambient, multi-colored LED lighting system designed to stimulate creativity by altering the mood of the room. The "half-day course" setting, for example, simulates the rising and setting of the sun over the course of a 2-hour brainstorming session, helping to create a gradual mood shift as the meeting progresses.

Kayac developed Kage Roi in cooperation with the Keio University Inakage Lab (imgl), whose research focuses on next-generation digital communication and entertainment. The system was installed in a meeting room at Kayac headquarters last month, and the company plans to begin field-testing it soon.

Kayac hopes to develop a practical version of the system in the near future, and they are considering marketing it to companies in the content creation industry.

[Source: Fuji Sankei, Kayac]

Kaibo Zonshinzu anatomy scrolls (1819)

25 Apr 2008

The Kaibo Zonshinzu anatomy scrolls, painted in 1819 by Kyoto-area physician Yasukazu Minagaki (1784-1825), consist of beautifully realistic, if not gruesome, depictions of scientific human dissection.

Kaibou zonshinzu --

Unlike European anatomical drawings of the time, which tended to depict the corpse as a living thing devoid of pain (and often in some sort of Greek pose), these realistic illustrations show blood and other fluids leaking from subjects with ghastly facial expressions.

Kaibou sonshinzu --

The fact that the bodies used in scientific autopsies in Edo-period Japan generally belonged to heinous criminals executed by decapitation adds to the grisly nature of the illustrations.

Kaibo sonshinzu --

According to the Keio University Library (where these documents are currently stored), the two scrolls contain 83 illustrations based on Minagaki's observations of over 40 bodies. They are regarded as the best collection of early 19th-century anatomical drawings by a Japanese hand.

Kaibosonshinzu --

The first scroll includes a handwritten compliment by Philip von Siebold, the German physician credited with being the first European to teach Western medicine in Japan, who was reportedly impressed by the quality of the drawings when he observed them in 1826.

Kaibozonshinzu --

Siebold's note, in Dutch, reads: "This anatomical research has been carried out with great diligence and should therefore achieve great recognition."

Kaibouzonshinzu --

In 2003, Japan's Ministry of Culture designated Kaibo Zonshinzu an important cultural property, saying that the scrolls, which were produced as a result of actual observation and based on Dutch scholarship, demonstrate the level of knowledge that medical science reached in the Edo period.

Kaibousonshinzu --

[Link: Kaibo Zonshinzu via Ectoplasmosis >> Morbid Anatomy >> Bibliodyssey]

Brain-computer interface for Second Life

12 Oct 2007

Brain-computer interface controls Second Life avatar --

While recent developments in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology have given humans the power to mentally control computers, nobody has used the technology in conjunction with the Second Life online virtual world -- until now.

A research team led by professor Jun'ichi Ushiba of the Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory has developed a BCI system that lets the user walk an avatar through the streets of Second Life while relying solely on the power of thought. To control the avatar on screen, the user simply thinks about moving various body parts -- the avatar walks forward when the user thinks about moving his/her own feet, and it turns right and left when the user imagines moving his/her right and left arms.

The system consists of a headpiece equipped with electrodes that monitor activity in three areas of the motor cortex (the region of the brain involved in controlling the movement of the arms and legs). An EEG machine reads and graphs the data and relays it to the BCI, where a brain wave analysis algorithm interprets the user's imagined movements. A keyboard emulator then converts this data into a signal and relays it to Second Life, causing the on-screen avatar to move. In this way, the user can exercise real-time control over the avatar in the 3D virtual world without moving a muscle.

Future plans are to improve the BCI so that users can make Second Life avatars perform more complex movements and gestures. The researchers hope the mind-controlled avatar, which was created through a joint medical engineering project involving Keio's Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center, will one day help people with serious physical impairments communicate and do business in Second Life.

(For video of the Second Life BCI, check the links on the Ushida & Tomita Laboratory news page, right above the first photo.)

[Source: Nikkei Net]

Robot beauty goes skin-deep

19 Sep 2006

Honey Doll --

In a move that could provide a crucial boost to our robotic friends struggling up the near side of the Uncanny Valley, major cosmetics manufacturer Kao Corporation and a Keio University research team led by robotics professor Takashi Maeno have developed an artificial skin that feels just like human skin.

Skin, the largest organ of the human body, consists of a soft layer of tissue (dermis) covered by a tougher protective layer (epidermis). The artificial skin developed by Kao and Keio mimics the feel of human skin with a 1-cm thick "dermis" of elastic silicone covered by a 0.2-mm thick "epidermis" of firm urethane. Countless tiny hexagonal indentations etched into the urethane epidermis provide it with a very realistic texture.

In a series of unscientific tests, 10 out of 12 people who touched the skin thought it felt like human skin, while equipment designed to measure the mechanical properties of skin confirmed the artificial skin had characteristics resembling human skin.

The skin was unveiled earlier this month at the 24th Annual Conference of the Robotics Society of Japan (RSJ) at Okayama University. While Kao plans to use the artificial skin in the development of new cosmetics, Professor Maeno sees potential applications in the field of household robotics, where there are many opportunities for human-robot interaction.

[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

JR passengers to generate electricity at train stations

01 Aug 2006

Ticket gate electric generatorThe East Japan Railway Company (JR-East), as part of research aimed at developing more environmentally friendly train stations, is testing an experimental system that produces electricity as people pass through ticket gates. JR claims that this sort of human-powered electricity generation system may provide a portion of the electricity consumed at train stations in the future.

The ticket gate electricity generation system relies on a series of piezo elements embedded in the floor under the ticket gates, which generate electricity from the pressure and vibration they receive as people step on them. When combined with high-efficiency storage systems, the ticket gate generators can serve as a clean source of supplementary power for the train stations. Busy train stations (and those with large numbers of passengers willing to bounce heavily through the gates) will be able to accumulate a relatively large amount of electricity.

JR-East, who worked with Keio University to develop the system, claims that in addition to being put to use as an independent power supply that does not require hardwiring, the system can also be used as a way of measuring the traffic flow through ticket gates.

The system is being tested at the JR-East head office in Shibuya, where it is installed at the entrance to the reception area on the 4th floor. As visitors pass through the gate, a lamp lights up, signifying that electricity has been produced. Testing of the system will continue until August 11.

[Source: Chunichi Shimbun via /.Japan]