technology

Asahi puts a new twist(er) on draft beer

Asahi puts a new twist(er) on draft beer

Japan’s most popular alcoholic drink is beer—and now it’s easier than ever to serve perfectly! True to form for a country known for automation, Japanese brewer Asahi has released the Tornado: a machine that automatically fills cups with beer. Rather than pouring, the spigot connects to the bottom of the specially-formed cup, filling it from the bottom up. As it fills, the foam swirls, resembling a—you guessed it—tornado!

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Simulation shows the chaotic consequences of walking in Shibuya while staring at your phone

Simulation shows the chaotic consequences of walking in Shibuya while staring at your phone

In recent years, Shibuya’s scramble intersection has shot to international fame as a symbol of the sheer energy and extreme congestion that can be found in downtown Tokyo. The five-road nexus is one of the busiest crossings in the world, and it’s not unusual to see as many as 1,500 people making their way across it – usually in opposite directions – when traffic in all directions stops.

With such a massive amount of pedestrians trying to get to the other side, navigating the scramble intersection without careening into anyone can be a tricky affair, especially with three giant video screens and several times as many mini-skirted legs pulling your attention away. But what if we added yet another distraction, in the form of every single person staring at their smartphone as they crossed? How many collisions would we see then? 10? 20? 50?

Try hundreds.

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Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores set to somehow get even more awesome this year

Japanese convenience stores are – as we’ve spoken about before – so awesome that if they offered to let you sleep on a cot in the backroom, you could live in one for your whole life and basically never want for anything.

In addition to all the delicious junk food, the endlessly flowing booze, coffee and other drinks, the ready-made meals (that have a sort of “slithery” quality and are one of the few things in a convenience store you should stay away from), and various daily necessities odds and ends, you can also withdraw cash, buy tickets for soccer matches, concerts and events, make copies, print photos, and probably clone your pet or something.

But, starting in 2014, things are about to get even more awesome. Check out the things you’ll soon be able to do at your local combini!

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Sony Head-Mounted Device allows users to step inside an Anime

Sony Head-Mounted Device allows users to step inside an Anime

Anime Japan 2013 had plenty of booths at Tokyo Big Sight advertising the latest anime and hawking related swag, but some companies also took the opportunity to showcase new technology that might be of interest to fans of animation.

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“Siri, my champagne’s getting warm!” Stunning Thai villa combines technology and beach living

“Siri, my champagne’s getting warm!” Stunning Thai villa combines technology and beach living

Recent studies have warned that, for all their convenience and the social interaction they allow, our mobile devices and anywhere, any time wireless internet access could potentially be hazardous to our health. But what if you just can’t bear to power down your iPhone, tablet, laptop or games console?

If you’re in need of a getaway, and want to assure yourself that the negative effects of your array of gadgetry will be entirely offset by your relaxing surroundings, there’s probably no better place than this luxurious beach villa on the Thai island resort of Ko Samui, which is fitted with pretty much every modern convenience from iPad-controlled shutters to remote-operated pool thermostats and top-of-the-range cooking equipment – available to rent for a cool US$650 a night.

Join us after the break for a photo tour.

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Japan already makes awesome industrial robots — Here’s what happens when it looks…elsewhere

Japan already makes awesome industrial robots — Here’s what happens when it looks…elsewhere

Japan’s industrial robots and non-humanoid creations are already thriving — we’ll meet some of them shortly. But we’ll also take a look at the country’s eerie robotic human analogs that foreshadow a future where it might not be so easy to tell them apart from “real” people.

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Japanese netizens get creative with custom iPhone unlock screens

Japanese netizens get creative with custom iPhone unlock screens

With the advanced state of the technology at our fingertips these days, our tech lives have never been so customizable. But one thing users may have never thought to get creative with is the iPhone’s humble lock screen. The most a typical user will ever aspire to is replacing the standard background with a picture of their cat or something. Or so I’ve observed of my more technologically inclined friends; I still use a rotary phone.

But did you know that with a little creativity and a photo editing tool, you can actually make some pretty cool custom unlock screens? Just ask these Japanese netizens that squandered their creative talents making anime characters say appropriately anime-ish things on their unlock screens:

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LED plant factories offer efficient 3D alternative to traditional gardening

LED plant factories offer efficient 3D alternative to traditional gardening

The concept of plant factories is not a new one. Especially in space-strapped Japan, the idea of a compact garden that can simulate a natural environment in a tight urban area is highly desirable.

Keystone Technologies is one Japanese company that has been constantly refining their LED garden technology. Currently they boast a system that can fit about a quarter acre’s worth of crops into a space of a hotel’s single-room, and that’s just the beginning.

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Foul-mouthed video shows Japan’s legendary politeness shattered by train’s last run

Foul-mouthed video shows Japan’s legendary politeness shattered by train’s last run

Among Japan’s numerous fanboy subcultures, train nuts are generally considered to be the most mild mannered of the bunch. They don’t have the lascivious motivations of certain obsessive idol singer fans, nor does their hobby have the graphically violent images often associated with video games and anime produced for the most hardcore fans of those media.

Train fans are mostly content to quietly stand at the end of station platforms or along rural stretches of railway, waiting for a chance to quietly and politely snap a photo of rare engines and carriages. In many ways, their passion is comparable to nature photography, and rail fandom is a pretty allow-key affair, nine times out of ten.

That one time, though, watch out.

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Japanese train platform door tech promotes safety, illusions of being in a sci-fi universe

Japanese train platform door tech promotes safety, illusions of being in a sci-fi universe

Japan’s “suicide problem” is much talked about, both within the country’s borders and without, with a shocking number of people each year choosing to end their lives by jumping in front of a train. Less talked about are all the other deadly and injurious accidents that take place on train platforms in Japan on a semi-regular basis.

Recently, Japanese rail companies have been experimenting with platform barrier doors to prevent both suicides and other grievous accidents, and most of these inevitably end up looking like something out of Star Trek or a 1990s first-person shooter before technology allowed swinging door animations.

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New high-res photos simulate aerial tour of Tokyo (helicopter noises included!)

New high-res photos simulate aerial tour of Tokyo (helicopter noises included!)

It’s hard to get an idea of how truly massive Tokyo is without seeing it from the sky. Unfortunately, most international flights come into Narita Airport, which is over an hour away from downtown, and we haven’t quite been able to convince our bosses that RocketNews24 really needs a company helicopter.

Thankfully, the newly upgraded Yahoo! Maps lets us take an aerial tour of the city even while we’ve still got both feet firmly on the ground.

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3D KFC: Using a 3D printer to copy fried chicken for fun and fashion

3D KFC: Using a 3D printer to copy fried chicken for fun and fashion

While 3D printing techniques have been around for 30 years, it’s only recently that technology has advanced to the point where the process is economically feasible. The ability to quickly and accurately duplicate three dimensional objects is set to revolutionize the engineering and medical fields, leading to easier creation of both prototypes and production versions of precision components and prosthetics.

But in mankind’s heady rush into this exciting new field, many have overlooked a potentially life-altering application of 3D printing: reproducing Kentucky Fried Chicken.

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【TBT】Badass full metal rubber band guns: We visit factory for some shooting practice

【TBT】Badass full metal rubber band guns: We visit factory for some shooting practice

Give a young boy a rubber band and chances are he’ll try and find a way to fling it across the room. The more ingenious of them will use resources like clothespins, popsicle sticks or Legos to craft a rubber band gun (here in Japan, many of us use disposable chopsticks). And, when they’ve grown up and gained access to all the big-kid toys, some of them will make an arsenal of semi automatic rubber band firearms from aluminum and stainless steel.

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Liven up your Twitter feed with anime-themed “Pair Icons”

Liven up your Twitter feed with anime-themed “Pair Icons”

We already know that Twitter and Vine are kind of places people in Japan go to make bad life decisions. We’ve seen teens crawl into convenience store freezers and would-be comedians posting really quite racist “comedy” videos, and even the occasional teen openly admitting to a crime on the social networking service.

So it’s a breath of fresh air to see someone finally take to Twitter with a good idea, like this amateur artist that posted a concept sketch for “pair icons:” Twitter profile pictures you can use with friends that, when lined up perfectly in your news feed, play off each other in fun and interesting ways. Here’s the original concept:

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New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

New ultra-stylish, extra-traditional Shinkansen has tatami floors, foot baths

The Shinkansen is already a pretty cool way to get around Japan, as it whisks travelers from the country’s cosmopolitan urban centers to its more traditional rural locales.

But what if you want to experience a bit of authentic Japanese culture while you’re zipping across Japan at 200 miles per hour? Fear not, Japan Railway has just the thing: a bullet train with tatami reed flooring and a Japanese-style foot bath.

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New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

New online manga service features 200 titles, three selectable languages, and no fees

Kadokawa, one of Japan’s largest publishers, is almost ready to roll out its new online manga service, dubbed Comic Walker. There’s so much to like about it that we’re having trouble picking our favorite part.

The voracious media consumer in us is attracted to the large library of titles, some of which can’t be read anywhere else. The ability to instantly translate dialogue into English or Chinese is a plus, too, especially for those time when you’re not up to the challenge of leafing through your Japanese dictionary so you can read the kanji for “particle beam cannon.”

But perhaps best of all is that Kadokawa’s digital manga service is absolutely free.

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iPhone gets stolen in Spain, Japanese owner gets hit with massive bill for $9,800

iPhone gets stolen in Spain, Japanese owner gets hit with massive bill for $9,800

Recently, we brought you the tale of a man whose iPhone was stolen while he was traveling in Thailand, only to have some of the sting taken out of the unfortunate development when he saw the pictures of the cute girl who was using the pilfered phone.

Now comes the story of another Japanese iPhone user who fell victim to overseas thieves, then received a surprise upon returning home. Unfortunately, his surprise wasn’t photos of a fine-looking female, but instead a massive bill from his cell phone carrier for nearly one million yen (US$9,800).

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Sega/Nintendo rivalry coming to theatres with Console Wars movie

Sega/Nintendo rivalry coming to theatres with Console Wars movie

You wouldn’t know it from the current state of the industry, but the biggest grudge match in video games wasn’t always PS4 versus Xbox One or Skyrim versus Dark Souls. For the bulk of console gaming’s most formative years, the bitterest rivalry was Nintendo versus Sega.

Back before Sega threw in the towel on making its own hardware, the two companies hated each other, and their fans did, too. “Nintendo makes games for little kids.” “Sega’s marketing is obnoxious and juvenile.” “The Super NES processor sucks.” “The Genesis sound chip sounds like a muffled fart.” “Mario is fat.” “Sonic only has one eyeball.”

Soon, you’ll be able to relive the epic struggle for 1990s video game supremacy with the feature film adaptation of the book “Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.”

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Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

Five Japanese customs even some Japanese people think are a pain

One of the trickier aspects of adapting to life in Japan is getting the hang of the numerous seasonal customs. While your acquaintances aren’t likely to get that bent out of shape if you miss a day or two, completely adhering to proper etiquette involves managing a year-round schedule of sending gifts and written salutations to friends, family, and business associates.

The sentiment is definitely admirable, but don’t Japanese people don’t find this all to be a huge hassle? Actually, it turns out some of them do, as shown in a poll of the top five seasonal traditions people in Japan would like to do away with.

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In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

In wake of nuclear disaster, world’s largest floating wind farm being built in Fukushima

The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.

Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

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