Tag: ‘Osaka’

Robovie droid helps lost shoppers

25 Jan 2008

Robovie --

The Osaka-based Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute (ATR) has developed a crowd-monitoring humanoid robot that recognizes when people are lost and helps them find their way.

In a series of demonstrations conducted from January 22 to 24, a souped-up version of ATR's Robovie humanoid robot monitored people as they passed through a 100 square meter (1,076 sq ft) section of the Universal Citywalk Osaka shopping center. Relying on data from 16 cameras, 6 laser range finders and 9 RFID tag readers installed in and around the area, the robot was able to watch up to 20 people at a time, pinpoint their locations to within a few centimeters, and classify each individual's behavior into one of 10 categories (waiting, wandering, walking fast, running, etc.).

Robovie -- Whenever Robovie spotted people who looked disoriented, the child-sized droid wheeled up to them and asked, "Are you lost?" If so, the robot provided simple directions to the destination and pointed the way. If not, the robot proceeded to recommend nearby shops and restaurants.

ATR says the Robovie test is the first in a long series of robot-related demonstrations to be conducted at Universal Citywalk Osaka. This week, the company announced it was establishing a permanent base in the shopping center, which will serve as a real-world environment for testing new robot-oriented business ideas. In June, the company plans to start hiring out its machines to companies toying with the idea of employing robots.

[Sources: Robot Watch, Yomiuri, Nikkei]

Rabbit-shaped police lights

26 Oct 2007

Rabbit light for Osaka police --

The Osaka Prefectural Police Department this year has reportedly purchased 800 rabbit-shaped roof-mount strobe lights for use on special patrol cars that cruise the streets around schools. Custom-built by warning equipment manufacturer Patlite, the blue bunny beacons are designed to win the admiration of children while they send the bad guys packing.

Here is a short video of the rabbit lights on display at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.

[Via: Gizmodo Japan]

Yabafo: Building-mounted vertical free-fall ride

15 Oct 2007

namBa HIPS -- Japan's first building-mounted free-fall amusement ride, called Yabafo, will be integrated into an exterior wall of Osaka's 12-story namBa H!PS entertainment complex scheduled to open in December. From 74 meters (240 feet) up, the 6-person ride will provide passengers a panoramic view of the city before dropping them 60 meters (200 feet) down the side of the building at a top speed of 22 meters per second (50 miles per hour).

Designed by architect Shin Takamatsu (whose famed Kirin Plaza Osaka building located in the heart of Shinsaibashi will be closed and demolished after the end of October), the 18 billion yen ($157 million) namba H!PS complex is poised to become Osaka's newest landmark. At 86 meters (280 feet) tall and 12,000+ square meters (130,000 square feet) in area, the building will house a variety of entertainment facilities, along with separate floors for golf, beauty salons and restaurants. Yabafo, which is seen as the building's main attraction, is expected to draw an estimated 400,000 thrill-seekers per year.

[Sources: Namba Keizai Shimbun, namBa H!PS Construction Blog]

Mona Lisa from recycled train tickets

05 Oct 2007

Mona Lisa made from train tickets --

Employees at the Takashimaya department store in Osaka have created four reproductions of world-famous paintings using 320,000 old train tickets obtained from the nearby Nankai Namba station. The works, which include renditions of da Vinci's Mona Lisa (2.3 x 1.6 meters) and the Birth of Venus, as well as Renoir's Dance at the Moulin de la Galette, consist of "pixels" formed by overlapping the black and white tickets in intricate patterns. About 300 employees sacrificed their breaks and free time for 3 months to complete the masterpieces, which will be on display at Takashimaya until October 16.

[Source: Asahi]

Pink, white katydids found in Osaka

11 Sep 2007

Pink, white and green katydids ---

When Osaka resident Kana Yamaguchi's neighbors cut the grass in a nearby field, a number of fleeing insects sought refuge in her flower bed. Among them was an odd pair of grasshopper-like bugs -- one pink, one white. Osaka Museum of Natural History entomologist Itaru Kanazawa identifies them as the larvae of Euconocephalus thunbergi ("kubikirigisu" in Japanese), a close relative of the katydid. While he says it is normal for these insects to change between green and brown to match their surroundings, pink and white are considered abnormal. Speculation is that the pink is an extreme variation of the brown coloration, and the white specimen is believed to be an albino, though nobody will know for sure until it becomes an adult. Regardless, says Kanazawa, "It is quite rare to find three different colors at the same time."

[Source: Asahi]

Tamanoi Vinegar Robot

18 May 2007

Robot to promote vinegar -- On May 18, buildup Co., Ltd. unveiled the Tamanoi Vinegar Robot, the world's first robot designed to make presentations about vinegar. The robot is scheduled to go to work at the Tamanoi Vinegar Corporation's Osaka office in July.

Relying on pre-programmed speech and gestures to communicate its knowledge of vinegar, the robot features a system of pneumatic servos that control 24 points of articulation in the upper half of its body. The 180 cm (nearly 6 ft), 100 kg (220 lb) machine has a mouth that moves in sync with its voice, as well as a fiber-reinforced plastic outer shell that is colored black -- like Tamanoi's black vinegar -- with an iridescent coating that changes hue according to the viewing angle.

The robot's first duties will be to entertain guests at Tamanoi's "Cyber Trip" amusement theater located in the company's new head office in Osaka. In addition to the robot, the theater will feature a 12-minute high-definition video on vinegar, also produced by buildup.

Watch video of the robot HERE.

[Source: BCN]

Robot employed as sex club tout

16 Apr 2007

Robot employed as sex club tout --- Robots can get away with things that humans cannot. In the Minami area of Osaka, for example, a humanoid robot dressed in a "sailor suit" high school uniform now works the street as a tout for an adult information center that navigates potential customers to local sex clubs. Humans in Osaka are prohibited by law from engaging in such nefarious activity.

Since 2005, Osaka law has banned sex club touts from soliciting business on the street. The law also applies to the staff of adult information centers, which guide customers to local establishments such as love hotels, fashion-health massage parlors, cabaret clubs and image clubs. There are 175 of these adult information centers in Osaka prefecture -- more than in any other prefecture in Japan.

But despite the law change, touts have remained on the streets, albeit with slight changes in behavior. Instead of relying on their voice to solicit customers, the touts began to work the streets in silence, using gestures and holding up bright yellow "Ask me!" (Ore ni kike!) signs. Some businesses also made "Ask me!" jackets for their staff. In this way, solicitors have been able to skirt the law by letting potential customers do the approaching.

However, at the end of last month, Osaka law enforcement ordered all sex industry touts to stop carrying signs.

The response this time? Hire a robot to carry the sign. At least, that's what one adult information center has done. The human-sized robo-tout, who used to direct traffic around construction sites, underwent a 500,000 yen ($4,000) upgrade for its new job, which is to attract the attention of passersby by periodically raising and lowering a banner that reads "Ask me!"

The droid's employer foresees no run-ins with the law. "It's a robot, so no problem," says a spokesperson for the information center.

[Source: Asahi 1, Asahi 2]

Wood-based bioethanol plant opens in Osaka

15 Jan 2007

Bioethanol -- Bio Ethanol Japan Kansai, a company established by Taisei, Daiei Inter Nature System, Marubeni, Sapporo Beer and Tokyo Board Industries, is set to begin commercial production of bioethanol made from wood waste. Opening ceremonies for the Osaka plant, which the company claims is the world's first of its kind, are scheduled for January 16.

With efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and growing concern over global warming, worldwide interest in ethanol made from biomass is on the rise. Using wood waste from construction, agriculture, forestry and other sources, Bio Ethanol Japan aims to produce 1,400 kiloliters (370,000 gallons) of ethanol fuel in its initial year, and eventually plans to boost annual production capacity to 4,000 kiloliters (1.06 million gallons). The bioethanol will be mixed with gasoline at a concentration of 3%, helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and lessen the impact on global warming.

The Ministry of Environment, which provided assistance in establishing the plant, has officially recognized the enterprise as a business model contributing to the reduction of global warming. Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony.

The use of ethanol as an automotive fuel figures prominently into the Japanese government's Biomass Nippon Strategy, which is designed to promote the production and use of biomass fuel. In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, the widespread use of ethanol fuel encourages the recycling of construction-derived wood waste and furthers efforts to create a more recycling-oriented society.

Now, if Bio Ethanol Japan Kansai could figure out a way to make fuel from the 63 million pairs of disposable chopsticks thrown out every day in Japan...

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

Future tourist destinations

12 Jan 2007

Here are a few places that will be interesting to visit once they are complete...

Osaka IRT Lab -- Osaka IRT Research Center (Osaka)

With the completion of the Umeda Kita Yard Redevelopment Project in 2011, the robot takeover of central Osaka will have begun. This 7-hectare area on the north side of JR Osaka station will be home to the Osaka IRT Research Center (tentative name), which will bring together ten companies -- including Citizen, German industrial robot manufacturer KUKA, Panasonic (Matsushita), Murata Manufacturing and others -- who will conduct IRT (information/robot technology) research in areas ranging from data communication networks to artificial intelligence to control technology. In an area open to the human public, the companies will maintain ongoing interactive exhibits showcasing the latest advances in robotics, making it an ideal destination for tourists and residents who wish to acquaint themselves with their new overlords.

Sumida Tower -- Sumida Tower (Tokyo)

The year 2011 will also see the completion of the Sumida Tower, which will stand 614 meters (2001 feet) tall. As the tallest free-standing tower in the world and the tallest man-made structure in Japan, Sumida Tower will serve as a communications tower for six television stations.

The tower, which is also referred to as the New Tokyo Tower, is expected to attract about 3 million people per year to Tokyo's Sumida ward, replacing Tokyo's other tower (Tokyo Tower) as the phallic tourist trap of choice. The Sumida Tower will dwarf the aging 333-meter Tokyo Tower, which was constructed in 1958 by the Takenaka Corporation.

No need for the Takenaka Corporation to feel envious, though. The company has bigger plans...

Skycity 1000 -- Sky City 1000 (Tokyo)

Since 1989, the Takenaka Corporation has been toying with the idea of constructing Sky City 1000, a 1 km (3281 feet) tall superstructure containing a virtual city of 35,000 residents and 100,000 workers. Sky City's 8 square kilometers (3.1 square miles) of floor space means there will be plenty of room for shops, schools, theaters, and all the other trappings of urban life that attract tourists.

Sky City 1000 will no doubt be a nice place to explore, and it should relieve some of Tokyo's congestion and free up some green space in the city below -- which will be great for the peons living on the outside.

Shimizu Corporation's space hotel -- Space hotels (450 km over Tokyo)

For travelers seeking greater highs, there are space hotels. Since 1989, Shimizu Construction has been developing plans to construct a 64-room space hotel, which the company hopes to put into operation in another 20 to 30 years.

At 450 kilometers (279 miles) above the planet surface, guests will enjoy fantastic views from their 7 x 4 meter rooms. The 7,500 ton facility will rotate at 3 rpm, producing enough centrifugal force for an artificial gravity of 0.7 g.

For the traveler seeking a more colorful destination, there is Pon De Station, a 24-room low earth orbit hotel designed to resemble a stack of "Pon de Ring" donuts from Mister Donut. The Pon De Station design comes from the Space page on the quirky SNTV site, and it appears to be a variation of the proposed "Space Love" hotel that also appears on the site.

Pon de Station --

The Space Love Project is seeking investors in its hotel, which will specialize in offering intimate space weddings. The hotel plans to offer rooms to couples for 10 million yen ($83,000), which includes the round-trip journey aboard a small space plane.

(For a glimpse of hyperactive web weirdness, visit the SNTV jump page, sit back and enjoy the ride.)

Martian colony, Obayashi Corporation -- Martian settlement (Mars)

For the ultimate getaway, there is Mars. Japanese construction giant Obayashi Corporation has been researching and developing plans for a Martian colony for over 10 years. According to the company's projections, the Martian population will reach 500 in the year 2057. By 2090, the population will be 50,000 strong and the Martian economy will make up 5% of the solar system's GDP. By then, it should be an interesting tourist option. But the company believes Martians will declare independence from Earth in 2092, so you better hurry up and make those travel arrangements before things get sticky.