technology

Automatic tie tier ties ties for tie tying-impaired

Ties are serious business in Japan. Since all but the most informal businesses require all men to wear one during working hours (unless, of course, it’s “Cool Biz” time), it’s pretty much a necessity for every guy to own a few and if you know more than two or three ways to tie one, all the better.

But, surprisingly, it’s not uncommon for Japanese guys to have no clue whatsoever how to tie a tie. The stereotype goes that these mostly young sartorially-challenged individuals rely on their girlfriends or even dads and moms to knot their tie for them, and in a pinch they’ll just stash an already-knotted tie somewhere in their closet, tighten it on and dash out the door.

One such less-dexterous individual apparently took it upon himself to solve his problem by building an automatic tie tying machine, presumably so that he could finally stop relying on his dad for his wardrobe and move out of his parents’ basement:

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Free at last? Japanese government mulling over doing away with cell phone SIM locks

When my brother and his family moved back to America, leaving my wife and I as the last Baseels in Japan, he graciously offered me his practically new iPhone. Sadly, despite the tempting opportunity of upgrading from my old-school flip phone, I had to turn down his generous offer.

Being happily married, this wasn’t because I needed the boost in attractiveness that comes from an outdated cell, but simply because my brother and I had different providers, and his iPhone was SIM locked, like all mobile phones in Japan have always been.

However, that might be changing soon.

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Transform!!! Toshiba unveils new laptop that can fold itself into every conceivable position

What with desktops, laptops, all-in-ones and tablets, we now have an enormous amount of choice when it comes to buying a new computer. While many of us enjoy the raw power that giant desktops have to offer, others prefer the simplicity and convenience of tablets with their slim designs and fingerprint-absorbing touchscreens.

With the Kira L93, Japanese electronics giant Toshiba is clearly hoping to cover all of its bases and please even the most indecisive computer buyer. With a 13.3-inch touchscreen that can be rotated 360 degrees, stand, detachable keyboard and stylus, the latest entry in the Dynabook series can be used up to seven different ways, making it one of the most versatile machines on the market.

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World-famous Shibuya scramble crossing to become even more epic with giant(er) screens

The Shibuya crossing, also known as theShibuya scramble, is without a doubt one of the most famous locations in the world. Now the go-to location for establishing shots of Japan when producers aren’t focusing on geisha and picturesque temples, the intersection has been featured in numerous TV shows and movies, and is a must-see for any visitor to Tokyo.

Surrounded by tall buildings, each covered in giant screens and ads vying for pedestrians’ attention, the Scramble is traversed by an incredible 500,000 people each day, with roughly 3,000 pedestrians crossing every time the lights change during peak hours, making it one of the flashiest and most popular places to advertise in Japan.

And now, it’s about to get just a little bit flashier.

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Daihatsu shows off the Copen, its sporty new convertible with room for (barely) two

The town of Hakone, located high in the mountains of Kanagawa Prefecture, is one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations. Visitors come to enjoy its soothing hot springs, beautiful views of Mt. Fuji, and art museums focusing on outdoor sculpture installations and Venetian glass.

Hakone also happens to be home to some of the best driving roads in east Japan, too, which is why Daihatsu picked the site to show off its new compact convertible, the Copen, to fans and press.

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Nissan’s endurance racing team combines PlayStation training, hybrid power, crazy design

Most if the time, video games and sports cars are two of the more trivial things in life. That said, sometimes it’s those non-productive luxuries that give us the recharge we need to be industrious in our daily grind. Some people draw energy and inspiration from an afternoon spent with a good book or favorite album, others get it from a few hours working a PS4 controller or rowing through a crisp-shifting gearbox.

Competitive gaming and motorsports are getting another boost in legitimacy this summer, as the first has led to a job for some talented virtual racers, and their team’s car is helping pave the way for cleaner, more efficient engines.

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The 2,900 km/h train: China could soon have maglev faster than commercial jet

Scientists at Southwest Jiaotong University in China have built a prototype testing platform for a near-vacuum high-speed maglev train that is theoretically capable of reaching speeds up to 2900 km/h or about 1,800 mph. Currently, the fastest commercially operated maglev reaches just 431 km/h and even the world record is just 581 km/hr.

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Company’s smoking regulations cover all bases with math, technology, psychology, and courtesy

While progress has been slow and begrudging, anti-smoking movements are finally starting to gain traction in Japan. For example, smoking is largely banned in train stations, except for in designated enclosed smoking spaces, and even many of those are being removed.

Likewise, when smartphone advertising firm Adways moved into a new office, management saw it as a chance to rethink how to make the workplace more comfortable for nonsmokers, and came up with a solution that uses a mix of technology and simple common courtesy.

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Panasonic invents genius USB wall outlet, makes us realize we’ve been living like cavemen

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic recently unveiled an invention so awesome and totally logical we can’t help but wonder why it took so long for someone to introduce it.

Behold, the USB wall outlet; a riff on the standard two-prong outlet that features an extra socket for USB devices. In an age where probably more than half of the devices we use on a daily basis are USB-powered, it’s a wonder that it took until now for someone to come forward with a product like this.

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9 futuristic jobs we could see by 2030

With technology moving faster than ever, it’s hard to imagine what careers will look like 20 years from now. But The Canadian Scholarship Trust Plan (CST), a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to helping Canadian families save for their children’s post-secondary education, wanted to find out.

With help from foresight strategists, CST took a look into the future to find the jobs that may be commonplace by the year 2030.

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Make your boyfriend hate you with these Line stickers designed for pushy, clingy girlfriends

The social messaging service Line is a huge hit in Japan. It’s easy to use, free, and even lets you decorate your messages with stickers to add a personal touch.

All of this makes Line great for keeping in touch with your friends or dating partner. As a matter of fact, it might have just become a little too good at keeping you connected to your significant other, with a new set of stickers specially designed for clingy girlfriends.

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It may look like a tool shed, but one of Japan’s fastest trains passes through this station

Two phrases sum up a distinct dichotomy of life in Japan. The first is gambaru, to do one’s best, and it lies at the root of so many of the country’s academic, economic, and scientific achievements.

On the other hand, you’ve also got gaman suru, to put up with things, which is why the same country which produces so many handy gadgets still seems largely fine making do without things such as garbage disposals and clothes dryers.

These two equal but opposite attitudes seem to have collided at Toge Station in Yamagata Prefecture, a distinctly low-tech structure with a connection to one of Japan’s most impressive engineering feats.

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Amazing shows of craftsmanship to make you feel woefully unaccomplished

It’s our opinion that everybody needs at least one good hobby that they can really devote themselves to. Being good at something other than sitting at a desk and banging out Excel spreadsheets will not only make you feel more whole as a person, it’s also pretty sexy when you can whip out a guitar and casually riff out “just something you thought up over the weekend.”

The sexy part doesn’t really apply to, say, basket weaving, but hey, if it fulfills you personally, have at it.

Of course, we wasted our innate writing talents on weird Asia news and useless listicles instead of polishing up our young adult vampire novel writing skills, so when we saw this huge collection of people who are really, really, really good at one particular craft, it sort of made us feel a deep existential sadness as we reflected on what we could have been doing if we’d just applied ourselves.

So, beware, unless you’ve already mastered an impressive hobby yourself, these amazing shows of craftmanship will probably make you feel like a horrible waste of flesh:

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【TBT】Learning language through nonsense – Japanese author of “Unusable English” speaks

Fantastic octopus wiring!

My brother has been observing the slugs since he got divorced.

Let’s start from where we left off yesterday. Get down on all fours.

No, these aren’t the ramblings of a man with concussion; these are genuine excerpts from Twitter feed and study guide “Non-essential English Vocabulary: Words that will never come up in tests”, a language resource for Japanese students of English that presents entirely useless but infinitely memorable phrases.

With more than 40,000 Twitter followers so far, Twitter feed curator and author Nakayama-san (otherise known as @NISE_TOEIC)’s cheeky tweets are clearly resonating with English learners here in Japan, but why, when the rest of the nation is busy with earnest study, would someone take the time to create a Twitter account dedicated entirely to unusable English? Japanese website Excite Bit sat down with the Nakayama-san to pick up a few study tips and learn little more about the thinking behind the bizarre project.

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“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

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

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

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

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

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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