technology

Engineers teach robot to swing katana at 1,000 foes, hopefully don’t awaken its bloodlust 【Video】

We recently took a look at the latest iteration of the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which showed us how far scientists have come in building sophisticated robots, and yet how far those machines have left to go before they can get from point A to point B without falling down hilariously. But little did we know that while we were snickering at those clumsy creations, another group of engineers were building their own robot that can perfectly perform a severing strike with a samurai sword.

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Three potentially fatal flaws with the facial recognition ATMs soon to be introduced in China

We’ve all seen how facial recognition software can go badly wrong. But it seems that China hasn’t gotten the message, since they’re going forward with a new plan for ATMs which rely on face-scanning technology.

The new machines will reportedly snap a quick picture of the person trying to access each account, and cross-reference their facial features with a database to find a match.

We can see at least three fatal flaws with this plan. Can you guess what they are?

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Young inventor dreams big to cleanup ocean plastic, will launch test in Japan

What did you accomplish by the time you were 20 years old? Did you answer, “inspired an entire world to get behind your idea to clean the ocean”?

A Dutch engineering phenom has done just that with his project The Ocean Cleanup. In 2016, he and his team will launch a pilot program that will eventually lead them to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that lies between Hawaii and California. However, any idea has to start somewhere, and that somewhere will be Japan.

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Miniature maglev train set provides hours of high-speed, floating fun!

When you were a kid, you probably owned (or knew someone who owned) a model train set, or Scalextric-style slot car racing track. You probably also watched Back to The Future and lusted after Marty McFly’s hoverboard. But I bet you never thought that when you grew up, you’d be able to buy your very own hovering high-speed train set! And now you can, courtesy of toy company Takara Tomy!

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We brave fastballs from the world’s fastest (and most terrifying) pitching machine

If there were ever going to be some kind of cheesy, baseball-themed horror movie, we’re almost certain the mechanical antagonist would be this Shizuoka Prefecture pitching machine – the world’s fastest at a pitching speed of 230 km/h (143 mph) – which would probably be depicted firing a fastball directly through the torso of some cocky coed.

Record-setting and somewhat terrifying? You bet we had to go and take a shot at hitting one of those blazingly fast pitches. Well, like, not us. We’re too young and handsome to die. We sent one of our Japanese-language writers, instead.

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Never miss an important call again at the office with our bra lifehack!

For those of us working in high-tech societies, connection and communication can be as valuable as any resource. A single missed call can turn into a missed business chance, so making sure you can be reached no matter how furiously you’re typing is important. But at the office, no one wants to be that jerk that just leaves their ringer on. And it’s pretty easy to miss a call with just vibration mode.

However, the writers for the Japanese-language side of RocketNews24 may have come up with a solution for you. All you need to do is keep your phone in range of view while you’re using the computer. There are, obviously, a number of ways to do this, but our writer P.K. thinks he’s found the best way: With a bra!

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New JPEG image enlargening software is actually a bigger deal than it sounds

Maybe this is an Internet writer problem and all you people with real jobs won’t understand, but a major snag we often run into in this line of work is not being able to find images of the right size and/or copyright status.

A lot of the most relevant, high quality images tend to belong to wire services and newspapers, while pulling stuff from the less copyright-protected corners of the net is kind of a crapshoot; you might find a beautiful pic that’s perfect for your story, but then again you might also discover that the only remotely related image that you can find is a thumbnail that’s only clearly visible under a magnifying glass.

Now, however, there is a solution!

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Panasonic develops data communication using an ordinary light and smartphone

There are many ways that data is transferred these days, be it fiber optic cables, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G-LTE, and a whole slew of other brand names and acronyms the meanings of which I don’t care to learn.

Now Panasonic has come up with a way to send and receive data that’s easy for everyone to understand: light. Actually it uses light emitting diodes (LED) to be exact, but that’s about as technical as this explanation needs to get, I promise.

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Here are the 15 most amazing home made robots, tanks, and vehicles in China

China is known as an industrious nation and, after pictures surfaced of one Chinese teacher who built a phenomenal “Iron Man” Hulkbuster replica in his garage, it seemed like the right time to take a look at some of the country’s most impressive home made inventions.

From full size, working airplanes to wooden, yet electronic cars, the Chinese have spent anything from a couple of months to several years, knocking up some pretty impressive modes of transports and robots.

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Japanese lingerie maker’s concept bra will give you pep talks, help you take perfect selfies

Usually, lingerie maker Triumph International Japan takes about half a year between announcing its innovative and unusual concept bras. So since it’s been about six months since we saw the company’s paired Close Sisters Bras, we figured the its next design highlighting a social trend was just about due.

Sure enough, this week Triumph showed off its newest creation: a bra that’ll give you verbal pep talks and also help you snap selfies.

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Virtual reality gear Tesla Suit hopes to make gaming a lot more touchy-feely

Video game technology continues to find ways to make things more interactive with the recent releases of VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus. Still, even with those immersive improvements players aren’t getting a full sense of their virtual environments.

For example, playing a first-person shooter without the actual fear of feeling a bullet slam into your chest can never quite compare to a realistic experience. And even the richest game-world textures can’t match the real thing if you can’t touch them with your own two hands.

UK development team Tesla Studios (no connection to the cars) is aiming to fill those gaps between reality and virtual reality with the Tesla Suit; a full-body haptic feedback device allowing you to touch game environments and characters and let them touch you all over your body.

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China’s toilet tech showing considerable signs of improvement

Step by step China has been steadily gaining on Japan in various facets of life. The country has surpassed Japan to become the second biggest economy in the world and they are currently making strides in bullet train development and infrastructure.

But now a video from a Thai traveler gives us a glimpse at yet another way China is looking to overtake Japan, and it is one that may cut closest to the bone. We’re talking of course about fancy toilet technology.

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Japanese farming simulator rewards players with actual crops delivered to their door

Remember back in the day when all of your older relatives and the kids you knew from school but never speak to any more would send you invites to play Farmville? Remember how seeing a new notification on your Facebook toolbar that just turned out to be yet another invitation to play f’$%ng Farmville would fill you with impotent rage?

Well think about how different your reaction might have been if your “friends” hadn’t been backhandedly asking you to help them raise their not-actually-existent virtual ducks and cabbages, but were in fact asking you to help them put real, actual food in their mouths.

One Japanese startup, Telefarm, is hoping that the future is online games that reward players for good performance with actual products delivered to their door. And they’ve been running a farming simulator prototype for a little over a year now to test that model’s feasibility.

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Breathe easy – Toyota redesigning Prius plug-in hybrid to double car’s all-electric range

Toyota’s Prius is designed for one purpose, and it’s not to deliver the sort of exciting performance that will seduce you into taking a spirited drive through a moonlit mountain pass (that’s another car’s job). No, the Prius promise is that it will get you from Point A to Point B in the most energy-efficient way possible.

But while the standard hybrid Prius remains a popular choice for eco-conscious motorists, sales of its plug-in variant have been stagnant. Toyota is hoping to change that, though, with an updated Prius that can travel roughly twice as far under purely electric power than the current model.

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Free Wi-Fi now available on Tohoku Shinkansen, inside Tokyo’s Yamanote Line stations

Every now and then, Japan takes a shine to something that’s new to it but much more common overseas. Chairs, for example, were pretty much nonexistent in the country until the late 1800s, but now you’ll find them in just about every home except the most bare-bones of bachelor pads. Beer (one of the greatest beverages to enjoy while sitting on said chairs) is another foreign concept that’s gained mainstream popularity.

Likewise, although it’s taken some time to catch on, the number of places offering free Wi-Fi in Japan has been steadily increasing over the last few years, and is now available on the Tohoku Shinkansen and all of the stations on Tokyo’s most convenient train line.

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Perovskite promises power-producing paint for pennies per pint

Back in 2009, a research team from the University of Tokyo led by Professor Tsutomu Miyasaka found that a substance called perovskite had the potential to generate solar power. However, at the time it only had a very weak power conversion efficiency (PCE) of about four percent and would break down in just a few minutes.

Because of these sizable flaws, not could practical use could be made of perovskite and the discovery lay dormant for a few years. Then, after a Korean team managed to double the PCE in 2011, research into the material was reignited. Now as scientists around the world continue to work on it, the PCE has become well above 20 percent and comparable with the standard silicon-based solar panels that we see today.

With perovskite being drastically cheaper to produce, more flexible to use, and now as efficient as regular solar panels, could we be on the verge of a solar energy revolution?

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This restaurant has a new secret weapon: a robot that slices the perfect noodle faster than any human

China has a new celebrity, and it’s not another 7′ 6″ giant who can dunk a basketball or martial-arts master taking center stage in American action movies.

It’s a noodle-slicing robot named Foxbot, who can be found at Dazzling Noodles, an open-kitchen restaurant chain in North China’s Shanxi province.

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Japan Post, IBM, and Apple to develop senior-friendly tablets

On 30 April, a joint announcement was made by Apple, IBM and the nation’s private postal service Japan Post regarding a new project that aims to change the lives of Japan’s aging population.

The three companies are combining their expertise to develop a line of iPads with specialized apps for senior citizens. Designed by IBM in conjunction with elderly care services in the works by Japan Post, it is hoped that the tablet computers will help to reduce the burden on younger generations as they care for an increasing number of aged family members.

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It’s difficult to say if this Japanese power unicycle is cool or not

Starting this summer, Japanese company Onewheel will offer a limited number of these Onewheel i-1 motorized unicycles. Their revolutionary design and features are sure to make prospective buyers think long and hard about whether they’re actually really cool or incredibly lame. Even their catchphrase “What is this?” feeds the ambiguity.

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Shocking gap between TV and Blu-ray versions of same anime prove you get what you pay for

There’s an odd paradox to anime in Japan. There’s no easier place to watch anime completely free, as just about every series of note airs on regular broadcast television. At the same time, fans pay far more for anime TV series’ subsequent Blu-ray releases in Japan than any other market, with prices of 5,000 yen (US$42) and up for individual discs containing just two episodes.

So what’s convincing Japanese fans to shell out so much cash for something they already have access to without spending anything at all? For some it’s a patron-of-the-arts-like sense of pride that comes from financially supporting the cultural works they love, but for others, it’s the shockingly wide gap that’s sometimes present between the artwork in the broadcast and home video versions of the same anime.

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