Tag: ‘Mobile’

iPhone band plays Denki Groove

21 Mar 2008

This minimalist version of "Smoky Bubbles" by Denki Groove (from the "A" album, 1997) was performed on a jailbroken iPod Touch 1.1.2.

Bass: Pocket Guitar (Electric Bass)
Synthesizer: iPhone Synth
Drums: BeatPhone
Guitar: Pocket Guitar (Acoustic Electric Guitar)
Piano: iAno (now known as "Pianist")

Ippon Zuri: Catch-and-eat fishing by phone

13 Feb 2008

Ippon Zuri fishing game -- 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.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

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)]

Cellphone recycling bins at Tokyo convenience stores

22 Jun 2007

Cellphone recycling bin -- On June 20, NTT Docomo and am/pm Japan announced plans to begin equipping convenience stores with cellphone recycling bins, making it easier for people to recycle their unwanted devices.

Since 1998, Japan's wireless providers have been recycling unwanted phones in their own stores for customers who switch models or cancel their contracts. In recent years, however, it has become increasingly common for customers to wait a while before recycling their old handsets, mainly because they hold greater amounts of important data that needs to be accessed even after switching models. Most users eventually decide to dispose of their mobile devices, though, so NTT is hoping they will make use of these recycling bins.

The recycling bins, which will initially be set up at eight convenience stores in central Tokyo, are open to unwanted handsets of all makes and models. The bins are also designed to prevent theft of the contents.

In 2005, NTT harvested 37,993 kg (42 tons) of copper and 145 kg (320 pounds) of gold from discarded handsets.

[Source: MYCOM]

QR code on shrimp crackers

05 Jun 2007

QR Ebi-sen -- Internet content creator Hertz has launched a new marketing service called "QR Ebi-sen," which allows companies and individuals to print QR code on shrimp crackers. QR code, a type of two-dimensional code that enjoys widespread use in Japan, connects users to mobile web content when they scan it with a QR code reader-equipped cellphone.

Using natural dye extracted from tamarind seeds, the QR code is printed on the smooth surface of white crackers provided by ebi senbei manufacturer Shimahide, whose factory is located in the city of Kanonji in Kagawa prefecture -- a place known for delicious ebi senbei. The resulting cracker has a high-contrast, high-quality image readable by a cellphone QR code scanner.

The price for the service starts at 10,000 yen ($85), with an additional fee based on the number of crackers printed. Visitors to the NET Marketing Forum held at Tokyo Midtown from June 6 to 7 will get the first taste of QR Ebi-sen courtesy of the Web Technology Corporation, who will be handing them out from their company booth.

[Source: Impress Watch]

Movie QR code and kung fu high school girls

26 Apr 2007

Movie QR Code -- Hakuhodo DY Group i-Business Center and IT DeSign have developed "movie QR code," a type of QR code that incorporates moving video into the design.

QR code is a type of two-dimensional barcode that has grown popular in Japan in recent years, because it provides a simple, automated way for users to enter data into their mobile phones. By using mobile phones to scan QR code that appears in an outdoor advertisement, for example, users may be directed to a website containing more detailed product information.

To personalize the appearance of printed QR code, which looks like a chaotic arrangement of tiny black and white squares, IT DeSign recently developed "Design QR," which incorporates static images of logos, characters or photos into the code. Movie QR code takes this concept a step further by incorporating moving images into the design, thus optimizing it for use on video screens, where it promises to be more effective in attracting the attention of potential scanners. Seriously, how will anyone be able to resist scanning a bit of on-screen QR code if, for example, it contains a cute, bug-eyed critter that literally begs you to scan it?

Movie QR code works just like standard QR code -- any user armed with a reader-equipped cellphone can scan it.

On May 21, the companies plan to launch a new type of advertising service built around the use of movie QR code. Details of the service will be announced soon.

Interestingly, a commercial video containing QR movie code has been circulating the web for a while. The video, called "Kung Fu High School Girls" (Kanfuu Joshi-kousei), begins with two high school girls talking about Black Jack (the famous manga character), who they both think is cool. Things quickly turn ugly when the girls disagree about whether Black Jack is a foreigner or Japanese, and a full-on kung fu battle ensues. After a while, a boy wearing a giant QR code headpiece arrives on his bicycle and urges the girls to stop. By scanning his face, he explains, they can find the answer to their question and settle their dispute. (This is a cue for the viewer to scan the computer screen with a cellphone QR code reader.)

Scanning the movie QR code takes you to http://aniful.jp/pr/ (which appears to be accessible only by keitai), where there is a link to another video that contains the answer. For some reason, the Pink Tentacle keitai is having problems downloading that video, so we may never know the truth. Is Black Jack Japanese? Or a foreigner?

[Sources: IT Media, "Kung Fu High School Girl" video (non-YouTube version)]

NTT’s cellphone-operated remote control home system

25 Apr 2007

Cellphone-operated remote control home ---

NTT-Neomeit, an NTT subisidiary, has unveiled plans for a convenient and inexpensive service that allows users to remotely control home devices from their cellphones. Scheduled for launch in September, the "U-Consento" service is designed to be compatible with a wide range of existing home appliances, so users do not need to purchase new devices or perform extensive home rewiring.

To control devices, users access a web page via cellphone and select the desired operations. The commands are then sent via the web to a wireless router in the home, which relays signals to an infrared transmitter and remote control power switches. The infrared transmitter, which operates like a universal remote, relays those signals to remote controllable devices such as home A/V equipment. Easy-to-install remote control switches connected to power outlets allow users to turn on and off the power to lamps and other devices not pre-equipped with remote control.

Cellphone-operated remote control home --- In addition to being able to control the room temperature, blast the stereo and program the video recorder -- all while outside the home -- users can also check the current operating status of each device and view records of how each device has been used. According to NTT-Neomeit, this ability to monitor device usage provides a convenient way for users to keep tabs on the activity of their elderly parents from afar.

NTT-Neomeit plans to rent the home remote control system starting at around 500 yen ($4) per month, and service will initially be limited to NTT broadband subscribers in western Japan. Pilot testing will be conducted in the Kansai area from May to August.

[Source: Yomiuri, NTT-Neomeit press release]

Iris recognition technology for mobile phones

06 Nov 2006

Iris recognition techology for cellphones -- On November 6, Oki Electric announced the development of iris recognition technology for camera-equipped mobile phones. Unlike Oki's previous iris recognition technology that relies on infrared cameras for the iris scan, the new technology uses ordinary cellphone cameras.

With plans to make the technology commercially available in March 2007, Oki hopes to boost the security of cellphone payment systems.

According to Oki, any camera-equipped cellphone or PDA can perform iris recognition once the special software is installed. Identification accuracy is said to be high, with only 1 in 100,000 scans resulting in error, and the system can tell the difference between flesh-and-blood eyes and photographs.

[Sources: Nikkei Net, Oki press release]

Aiterrarium: Remote-control gardening

12 Oct 2006

Aiterrarium --

On October 11, Matsushita Electric Works, Ltd. (Panasonic's parent company) announced plans to begin selling an indoor gardening system whose lighting, temperature and water supply can be remotely monitored and controlled via the Internet. The system, called Aiterrarium, is slated for release on December 20 and will initially target research facilities for universities and businesses.

The system consists of a growing chamber that is 50 centimeters wide and 1.2 meters tall. The chamber is outfitted with 190 watts of fluorescent lighting on the walls and ceiling, and sensors measure 15 different growing conditions, including soil temperature and moisture level. If a heater and automatic watering system are added, users can connect to a Matsushita server over the Internet to set ideal temperatures and perform watering. A webcam allows users to monitor growing conditions from anywhere in the world via cellphone or computer.

The system was exhibited at the 2005 World Expo (which may explain the "Ai" in "Aiterrarium," since Aichi prefecture played host to the Expo), where it received a favorable response, prompting Matsushita to make improvements and begin test marketing it to research facilities.

The standard system will cost 360,000 yen (US$3,000) plus monthly server fees, while the fully-optioned model will run 600,000 yen (US$5,000). The company is aiming for sales of 600 units in 2007.

In an effort to expand its business in the market for automated agricultural systems, Matsushita is developing remote-control systems for greenhouses, which they aim to release in April 2007.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]