technology

“3 bottles available” – Life’s Good when you can mail your fridge to ask if there’s any beer left

“3 bottles available” – Life’s Good when you can mail your fridge to ask if there’s any beer left

Electronics giant LG has announced that its line of “HomeChat”-enabled appliances – a refrigerator, washing machine, and Lightwave oven that can be communicated with and operated via messaging service Line — is now available to buy in its native South Korea.

By using the popular smartphone app, users can chat with their various gizmos as if they were ordinary human contacts, asking them questions as well as providing additional information to alter their functions. Thanks to the technology built into the appliances with which the app communicates, it’s possible not just to remotely check the temperature inside the fridge or put on a load of laundry, but to find out how many beers you have or delay your usual wash cycle by 30 minutes simply by telling the machine you’ll be home late.

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The awesome artwork hiding in the Japanese word processor: sakura, dragons, and sake

The awesome artwork hiding in the Japanese word processor: sakura, dragons, and sake

With over 1,800 commonly-used kanji characters, plus two different sets of 46 phonetic characters each, typing on a word processor in Japanese works a little differently than in English. Many words in Japanese have the same pronunciation but are written differently, so first you have to type the word phonetically, then select the proper rendering from a list that pops up.

The cool thing is that sometimes the selections aren’t just written characters, but drawings of the object in question. Poking around in a Japanese word processor is like a linguistic treasure hunt, and our searches turned up illustrations of mythical creatures, delicious food, and famous landmarks of Japan.

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“Shut up and take my money”: DeLorean selling real-life flux capacitors

“Shut up and take my money”: DeLorean selling real-life flux capacitors

Never has something been the focus of so much simultaneous nerd love and outrage than the venerable flux capacitor from the equally venerable film series that popularized time travel, Back to the Future. After all, it was the defining technology for time travel in the films that made screeching about time travel paradoxes all the rage in geek communities.

And now, it can be yours in all its ’80s glory with this official DeLorean Motors Company-licensed hardware that you can actually install in your real DeLorean – or presumably (and much more likely) – the crappy Pinto you’re currently borrowing from your grandpa.

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Sony shows off PlayStation 4 augmented reality with rubber ducks, dinosaurs, and Hatsune Miku

Sony shows off PlayStation 4 augmented reality with rubber ducks, dinosaurs, and Hatsune Miku

As we’ve said before, the PlayStation 4′s PlayStation Camera is a woefully underused device. Gamers who enjoy streaming footage of the games they play often use their cameras to capture their own expressions and add real-time commentary, and upcoming virtual reality headset Project Morpheus will make use of the unit to provide additional head tracking, but otherwise it gets relatively little love.

Fortunately, Sony Japan looks to be working on content that will inspire a few more PlayStation 4 owners to plug in their cameras. In two videos released last week, Sony staff show off their experiments with augmented reality, which combines real-world footage with computer-generated images that respond to a number of stimuli. These may only be tech demos, but the sight of a miniature T-rex hiding in the darkness, a man decanting water (complete with rubber duck!) between two virtual boxes, and even a short performance from a tiny Hatsune Miku on the living room rug left us thirsty for more.

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There’s a restaurant in China where all the food is prepared and served by robots

There’s a restaurant in China where all the food is prepared and served by robots

The Robot Restaurant in China’s Heilongjiang Province is a conventional restaurant in every sense, save the glaring exception that the food is prepared and served entirely by an army of 20 robots with just a modicum of human oversight.

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Nissan has made a self-cleaning car

Nissan has made a self-cleaning car

Nissan

Now that Nissan has revolutionized the rearview mirror, it has moved on to another problem: It is developing a self-cleaning car.

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First-of-its-kind towel is totally worth its 5,000 yen price, customers say

First-of-its-kind towel is totally worth its 5,000 yen price, customers say

A good towel is always nice to have, especially in a country like Japan where bathing is a hobby, hand dryers and paper towels are largely nonexistent in public restrooms, and the three to five months a year of blazing heat and sweltering humidity will make you itching to wipe off all that sweat.

Yes, it’s hard to overstate the value of a good towel, though some might say Japanese textile maker INI is coming close with its 5,000-yen (US $49) bath towels. That price, though, gets you a towel unlike any that’s been made before.

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Japanese homebuilder offers virtual reality tour of your new home while you’re still designing it

Japanese homebuilder offers virtual reality tour of your new home while you’re still designing it

Few people know this about me, but on top of being a huge video game nerd, I’m also both a part-time eco warrior and a big fan of the Tiny House movement, which is all about simple living and not destroying the environment for the sake of building a McMansion. I’ll happily spend a full evening watching video tours of micro homes or looking at floor plans while sketching out my own future home. But no amount of doodles can compare to actually visiting a property in person and snooping around.

Japanese home builder Daiwa House, too, knows the importance of giving potential home builders a chance to experience their residences in person, and is about to launch a special “Try Lab” showroom that invites visitors to slip on a virtual reality headset and wander around inside their new house, whether tiny or huge, and really get a feel for the place before giving the architect the final nod.

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World’s fastest elevator to be built in China, will hit speeds of up to 72km/h

World’s fastest elevator to be built in China, will hit speeds of up to 72km/h

Japan’s Hitachi Corporation has announced that it is manufacturing elevators that will reach speeds of 72km/h (45 mph) for a giant high-rise being built in Guangzhou, China.

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Patlabor’s giant robot gets taken out to the ballgame, keeps the peace in Chiba 【Video】

Patlabor’s giant robot gets taken out to the ballgame, keeps the peace in Chiba 【Video】

In planning any large-scale sporting event, organizers have to take security needs into consideration. Any time you combine thousands of people in a confined space with heightened emotions and flowing alcohol, there’s at least the chance that some individuals will be tempted to cross the line of polite behavior or even public safety, so it’s always a good idea to have a few security guards or uniformed police officers on hand.

Or, as shown in this awesome time-lapse video filmed outside a stadium in Chiba Prefecture, the giant robot from Patlabor.

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Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

Stunning 22-year-old HD footage brings Tokyo of the ‘90s back to life

When looking at old photographs and video, there’s a strange phenomenon that sometimes occurs. Between the visual grain and the way colors bleed together, sometimes those images don’t seem like they’re just from another time, but from another world, one somehow less defined and concrete then the one in which we now live.

Of course, that’s all just outdated technology playing tricks on you. While camera and monitors have certainly gotten better over the years, the resolution of real life hasn’t gone through any upgrades, and the physical world has always been as sharp and vibrant as what we see today. As proof, take a look of these amazing HD videos of Tokyo taken over two decades ago.

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How Microsoft created a virtual assistant that could blow Siri away

How Microsoft created a virtual assistant that could blow Siri away

YouTube/calloftreyarch

Windows Phone is still a distant third to Apple and Android in the smartphone market, but Microsoft is hoping to change that with the introduction of Windows Phone 8.1— and more importantly its personal digital assistant Cortana.

Microsoft claims that Cortana isn’t like your average virtual assistant. She’s supposed to be a little wittier, more personable, and capable of learning more about you than Siri or Google Now.

After using Cortana for a week and speaking with Microsoft’s Marcus Ash, Partner Group program manager, it’s clear that the company’s got a lot riding on the success of its new virtual assistant.

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Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

Bonkers lifehack products are the perfect combination of brilliant and stupid

“Lifehack” is a word we only just started seeing in the English lexicon, thanks to the mighty power of the Internet to bring out the most brilliant and most stupid parts of humanity.

Many are eager to show their “lifehacking” inventions to the world at large or even sell them as lucrative products in the post-shopping channel age where consumers yearn for goods that will save them time, make their lives easier, and make them look awesome/incredibly ridiculous at parties.

We’ve decided to compile some of the most compelling and utterly ridiculous inventions that fall (sometimes vaguely) into the lifehack category, so you can try your hand at making them yourself:

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Suntory’s awesome miniature ice versions of the Golden Pavilion, Statue of Liberty and more

Suntory’s awesome miniature ice versions of the Golden Pavilion, Statue of Liberty and more

Although I’m a man who can definitely appreciate the simple joys of knocking back a can of tasty beer in my living room, every now and again it’s nice to treat yourself to a drink at a classy bar. You know, the kind with soft lighting, a gleaming wooden bar top, and a vested bartender with an ice pick working a block into a classy orb to place in your glass of whiskey.

But as impressive as a nicely rounded sphere of ice may be, it can’t hope to match the visual impact of an ice version of Japan’s famous Golden Pavilion or the Statue of Liberty that you can drop in your glass.

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Lady Gaga goes gaga for Hatsune Miku, makes virtual idol her opening act

Lady Gaga goes gaga for Hatsune Miku, makes virtual idol her opening act

With Lady Gaga’s rehabilitation from hip surgery apparently having progressed enough that the pop star is ready to contend with a grueling performance schedule, she’s about to kick off a world tour celebrating her third album. But with millions of eyes on Gaga, she needs an opening act with a fan base large enough to do justice to the scale and importance of the six-month event, dubbed ArtRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball.

Fittingly for a singer who’s made a name for herself with her provocative stances on image, perception, and reality, before Gaga takes the stage, concert goers will be entertained by a vocalist who doesn’t even exist in three-dimensional space: virtual idol Hatsune Miku.

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Giant Patlabor robot stands tall in Tokyo even as film’s director calls it “useless” 【Photos】

Giant Patlabor robot stands tall in Tokyo even as film’s director calls it “useless” 【Photos】

When surveys are done asking people which neighborhood of Tokyo they’d like to live in, Kichijoji often tops the list. It’s not hard to see why, as it’s filled with fashionable cafes, restaurants, and bars (including one with an airsoft firing range), and nearby Inokashira Park is one of the capital’s best cherry blossom viewing spots.

Safety is also an important concern in choosing a place to live, and at least for a day, Kichijoji had this in spades, as the Ingram, the giant robot used in the Patlabor science-fiction films, showed up last weekend.

Even as the Ingram was standing tall though, the films’ director, Mamoru Oshii was tearing down the dreams if aspiring mecha pilots everywhere by firmly stating his belief that we’ll never see giant bipedal robots in any practical, real-life application.

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Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

Drivers spill the beans while saving the planet with Nissan’s two-seater electric vehicle

In October last year, Yokohama City joined forces with Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan for a special project dubbed Choi-Mobi Yokohama. Furnishing the historic port city with a small fleet of rentable, ultra-compact electric vehicles, Nissan set out to examine the feasibility of making such modes of transport commonplace in urban centres. Allowing anyone with a valid license to zip around the city – emission free, of course – for just 20 yen (US$0.19) per minute of use, ultra-compacts like the Choi-Mobi are tipped to be a useful replacement for taxis and private vehicles in urban areas in future years.

The concept alone was enough to have tech-heads and environmentalists alike grinning from ear to ear, but on April 1 this year, Nissan asked a group of Choi-Mobi renters to use their time together inside the vehicle to convey important messages to one another, telling not April Fools but “April Truths”.

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The extreme lengths Samsung must go to make sure your Galaxy phone works perfectly

The extreme lengths Samsung must go to make sure your Galaxy phone works perfectly

The last thing you want when you drop a few hundred bucks on a new phone is for it to fail on you within a few days.

That’s why manufacturers go through lengthy testing processes to make sure every aspect of their devices work. Samsung does the same with its Galaxy line of phones, including the new flagship phone the Galaxy S5.

We visited Samsung’s testing facilities at its headquarters in Suwon, South Korea. There, engineers test everything from how well phones can survive a fall to how many times you can push the home button before it breaks.

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60-meter Attack on Titan monster comes to Kawasaki, so we do too 【Photos】

60-meter Attack on Titan monster comes to Kawasaki, so we do too 【Photos】

In the eight years since it opened, the Lazona shopping center in Kawasaki has become the city’s highest-profile entertainment hub. Conveniently attached to Kawasaki Station, Lazona makes a great place to grab a bite to eat or shop for the latest fashions or electronics.

But like many of the visitors who made the trip to Lazona on April 10, we weren’t there for dining or bargain hunting. We came to see the projection-mapped 60-meter Colossal Titan from hit anime Attack on Titan.

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Keep in touch with all your Scout Corps friends with this Attack on Titan iPhone case

Keep in touch with all your Scout Corps friends with this Attack on Titan iPhone case

In creating the monstrous villains smash-hit manga and anime Attack on Titan, author Hajime Isoyama said that one of the feelings he wanted to convey was the terror of facing an adversary you have no way of communicating with. He hit the mark perfectly, as the Titans’ inability to speak or even meaningfully change their expressions makes them uniquely unnerving foes.

But no matter how big a fan of the series you may be, we human beings, on the other hand, need to be able to talk to one another, which is where this awesome iPhone case, modeled after the swords wielded by Attack on Titans heroes, come into the picture.

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