technology

Kyoto’s amazing mechanized underground bike parking system is even more awesome in motion 【Video】

Compared to Tokyo, Japan’s former capital, Kyoto, is fairly compact. Most of the commercial development is clustered around Kyoto Station, with a ring of temples, gardens, and other historical sites surrounding the more modern parts of the city.

Kyoto is also relatively flat, and the grid pattern its major streets are laid out on makes it an easy town to get around by bicycle. Of course, Kyoto doesn’t want an unsightly mass of parked bikes marring the scenery and cluttering pedestrian walkways, which is why at one of the city’s major transportation hubs there’s a subterranean, automated bicycle parking lot, and if that sounds awesomely high-tech, wait until you see it in action.

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Is Samsung sounding the retreat on the Japanese smartphone market?

South Korean Electronics giant Samsung may soon pulling out of the smartphone market–in Japan, at least. Recent information from industry sources paints a dreary picture for the company’s prospects in the country, with Business Korea saying: “By continuing to do business in Japan, Samsung should expect more of a loss than a gain.”

So what’s to blame for its floundering smartphone sales?

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Possibly real viral image shows potential but ridiculous way app developers influence sales stats

If you’re one of the many, many people who downloaded smartphone smash Flappy Bird only to find yourself decidedly underwhelmed and wondering why it was getting quite so much praise and press, you’re not alone. And while the aforementioned game may well have made it to the top of the charts due entirely to word of mouth and its strangely addictive, if simplistic, gameplay, you wouldn’t be considered completely crazy for wondering whether some games got to the top Google Play and the App Store’s popular downloads lists by some other means.

Case in point, this viral image doing the rounds online today, which purportedly shows a Chinese employee of a firm which makes its living boosting apps’ stats.

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Meet Asuna, the hyperreal android that will leave your jaw hanging 【Video】

Wonder Festival is a semiannual Japanese convention dedicated to model and figure-building which attracts all manner of pros, amateurs, and cosplayers from across the country. Most recently, the Winter 2015 Wonder Festival was held at the Makuhari Messe Convention Center in Chiba City on February 8.

Our reporter Meg was busy checking out the show when she spotted a cute girl standing behind robotic company A-Lab’s booth. “Aww, she looks just like an idol from AKB48!” Meg thought. But when she got closer, she was shocked to realize that the girl was actually a hyperreal-looking android! In fact, many of the people attending the exhibition were equally stunned to learn that Asuna was an android, and not a living, breathing human girl. Would you have been tricked along with them?

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No Photoshop here! Chinese city really does have a two-headed, German-made fire truck

Speed is of the utmost importance for emergency responders. When a fire breaks out, for instance, a delay in rescue workers arriving on-site can directly lead to lives being lost.

But while fire trucks have powerful, torquey engines that enable them to haul a full team and all of their firefighting equipment, they aren’t the most nimble vehicles when you need to bust a U-turn on a narrow road. Thankfully, some firefighters in China’s Nanjing City don’t have to worry about pulling off such complex maneuvers on their way to a blaze, thanks to their crazy-looking double-headed fire engines that can be driven in either direction.

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Handy bath pillow doubles as a smartphone holder, might also be giving you a hug

After a long, hard day at work or school, there’s nothing like a nice, hot bath. But then again, a lot of people also like to unwind by kicking back and sending a few emails, watching a video or two, or perusing the Internet’s most profound sources of knowledge on their smartphone.

Rather than choose between the two options, some people opt to take their phone into the tub with them. But if you’re so tired you’re craving two indulgences at once, having to grip your phone in your hand while you soak can really put a damper on maximizing your rejuvenating/loafing time.

So instead of doing that job yourself, why not get one of these inflatable bath pillows that double as a smartphone holder to do it for you?

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Huge six-meter (19.7-foot) anime hug pillow will prove you’re a great big otaku 【Video】

When you look at them a certain way, huggy pillows with pictures of cute anime girls on them are kind of creepy. Well, actually, they’re creepy in several ways, but for right now, let’s limit our discussion to one way in particular.

Even if we accept that there’s nothing wrong with consensual love between a man and his pillow, their relative sizes make the situation kind of weird. After all, a person’s height is far greater than a pillow’s length, so wouldn’t Miss Anime Pillow feel a little awkward cuddling with her much larger otaku owner?

It’d probably be a little like squeezing a gigantic anime pillow that’s six meters (19.7 feet) long. Of course, if that sounds like your personal vision of bedtop bliss, there’s a company giving away just that.

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It sounds like HTC’s new phone is going to have an incredible camera

HTC is planning to announce a new smartphone and smartwatch at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona on March 1, according to a report from Bloomberg.

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Charge up your new tech with a nod to old games with Famicom controller battery pack/card reader

Although millions of people have fond memories of playing games on Nintendo’s original Famicom (known internationally as the NES), not too many people spend much time actually playing with the system anymore. After all, portable gaming devices like Nintendo’s own 3DS and even smartphones now boast more powerful hardware specs than the classic 8-bit console, and have just as large a library of legitimately fun games as well as the capability to play old-school titles as software downloads.

Of course, the flipside to having so many great portable games to play or, in the case of smartphones, extremely important websites to visit, is that your mobile devices are going to be running out of juice before long. Now, though, there’s a way to give your new tech a recharge and your old tech a shout-out simultaneously, with this battery pack/card reader that’s styled after the Famicom’s Player One controller.

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“Live2D Euclid” technology creates 3-D models while retaining the essence of a 2-D drawing

What happens when you take the merits of both 2-D and 3-D animation and combine them to make a new hybrid form of animation technology? Unfathomable as it may seem, that’s precisely the type of technology that Japanese company Live2D is in the midst of developing. Their latest achievement, known as “Live2D Euclid,” is software that is able to transform your 2-D drawings into a 3-D reality while still retaining the look and details of a pen and paper illustration. In other words, it looks like “a hand-drawn picture that will move in the way you want it to.”

Still confused? Check out the introductory video after the jump to see this new technology that is revolutionizing the way we animate characters in anime and video games!

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Great deal on “thing that lets you make a USB into a plug,” ask for it by name!

The other day while out shopping for computer parts like that-thing-that-connects-an-old-type-iPod-to-a-PC, one Twitter user stumbled upon a truly great deal. For only 200 yen (US$1.70) you can get…um, you know…one of those “things-that-let-you-make-a-USB-into-a-plug.”

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Chinese iPhone smuggler fails to deliver illicit goods, does deliver laughs with his crazy outfit

With his stylishly coifed hair, affected pose, and outlandish outfit, you could at first mistake the man in the above photo for a model. And given how ridiculous his getup is, you might find it only natural that his face is concealed, because honestly, even if you were getting paid for it, it’d still be kind of embarrassing to be seen dressed like this.

Except, that’s no fashion shoot, but a photograph taken by Chinese customs authorities who caught the would-be smuggler trying to sneak a huge quantity of smartphones into mainland China in one of the clumsiest ways possible.

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Internet ready to shut up and take your money as preorders finally start for Cat Ear Headphones

Last summer, were you one of the many people who screamed “Shut up and take my money!” when we brought you news of the prototype cat ear-shaped headphone/speakers from recent startup AxentWear? If so, your harshly worded enthusiasm has been rewarded, as preorders have at last begun for the futuristically feline gadgets.

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Japanese sixth-grader calls out smartphone-loving parents over anti-video game lectures

I understand that an important part of parenting is setting boundaries for children. Until they reach a certain age, kids just don’t have the kind of foresight necessary to fully understand the consequences of all their actions, and letting preteens eat as many cookies as they want or stay up as late as they like probably isn’t the best idea.

That said, another important part of parenting is setting a good example. Fail to do that, and your kids are likely to just tune out everything you’re saying. Actually, that might be the best case scenario, since if you’re flagrantly guilty of not practicing what you preach, your kids might call you out for it, like one Japanese elementary school girl who pointed out her parents’ logical inconsistency in lecturing about keeping her video game playing to a minimum, even as they were glued to their own electronic devices.

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Japan’s amazing Excel artist wishes everyone a happy new year using the spreadsheet program

All through high school and for the first part of college, I didn’t use Microsoft Word, or any dedicated word processing software, for that matter, to write my reports. Instead, I did everything using Lotus 1-2-3, a spreadsheet program.

While that might sound incredibly inconvenient, it actually wasn’t too bad. Having a dad who’s an accountant and was well-versed in the program was a big help, but once I got the hang of it, I could produce written reports just about as easily as my Word-equipped classmates.

Still, my spreadsheet skills aren’t in the same league as Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi, who’s been making beautiful landscapes and portraits with Microsoft Excel for years, including a New Year’s card that’s just as cute as any made with paint and brush.

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Want to buy a giant, rideable robot? Amazon Japan will sell you one

This year, my sister-in-law and nieces gave me an Amazon card for Christmas. The bookstore near my apartment in Yokohama doesn’t stock English-language books, so it’s an extremely thoughtful gift, but I haven’t actually visited Amazon’s site to pick out my new reading material, since I’m still in the middle of a lengthy novel I started during my recent flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles.

With a couple of hundred pages left to go, it might be a while before I actually use the card, and while I’m leaning towards a National Geographic subscription, I still haven’t ruled out the alternative of putting the card towards purchasing a giant robot, since Amazon Japan now sells those, too.

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Japan Ministry of Defense develops tiny, grenade-shaped remote surveillance robot

The Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Technical Research & Development Institute (TRDI) appears to be nearing completion of the Throwable Type Reconnaissance Robot. It’s a little black orb about 50 percent bigger than a softball that Self-Defense Force members can simply toss into environments otherwise hazardous to humans and have a look around before taking action. It looks kind of awesome.

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Future Alert: In 2015 you’ll be able to use your smartphone to brush your teeth, kind of

We really are living in the future now! In the past few years toothbrush makers and even candy companies have been trying to find ways to use technology to help us brush our teeth better. In 2012, Oral-B came out with an electronic toothbrush with a separate handheld screen to help you control your brushing pressure. Last year, Hi-Chew candy maker Morinaga announced development of a video game to help kids learn how to brush better. Now, Sunstar, the maker of GUM mouth care products, has revealed the prototype of a new toothbrush attachment that can be linked to an application on your smartphone. The goal is not only better brushing, but making the process more entertaining.

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Hugh Jackman stars, sings J-pop cover, and speaks Japanese in ads for Toyota【Videos】

When you get to be as big a company as Toyota, you can afford to go out and get A-list talent for your commercials. Over the last few years, the automaker’s created a series of ads starring boy band SMAP’s Takuya Kimura and film icon Beat Takeshi.

In the commercials, collectively known as ReBORN, Kimura and Takeshi play historical figures Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, reincarnated in modern Japan. The latest installment even has a special guest star as Hugh Jackman, Wolverine himself, shows up to help spread the word about Toyota’s newest eco-friendly cars.

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Thanko’s Zero Gravity Armchair takes us to space in the comfort of our homes

Calling all fans of Interstellar! Can’t get enough of Christopher Nolan? Get yourself this Zero Gravity Armchair from Japanese gadget and technology fiends Thanko and pretend that you’re in space. This large rocking chair even comes with a smartphone stand so you can watch Interstellar at the same time, too.

Join us after the jump for a closer look at this gravity-defying modern-day throne!

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