technology

Tokyo hamburger vending machine has a human touch

Tokyo hamburger vending machine has a human touch

Japan is a wonderland of vending machines, and in many ways they’re great. They’re well-maintained, almost always take bills on the first try, and never judge you as pay for a bottle of hard liquor entirely in 10 yen coins.

Sometimes, though, doing a complete end run around human contact can make the purchasing process feel a little lonely. So when we heard about a restaurant where the vending machines had a human element, as well as delicious yet cheap hamburgers, we knew we had to check it out.

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Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

Tiny Suzuki scores one for the little guys by pulling huge big rig out of the snow 【Video】

As someone who grew up surrounded by full-sized American automobiles, I admit I chuckled a little when I first came to Japan and saw the country’s kei cars. As time went by though, I began to see how these super subcompact cars meshed with Japan’s transportation needs, as they sipped gas and slid easily down the country’s narrow roads.

But it turns out that kei – meaning “light” – cars aren’t just practical. The right one might even get you out of a jam, as this video of a heroic Suzuki saving a truck stranded in the snowstorm that hit the Tokyo area last week.

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Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now

Japanese company builds giant robot you could be piloting right now

Chiba Prefecture’s Wonder Festival is a bi-annual figure and model expo. The event’s bread and butter is figurine of anime and video game characters, in both frighteningly realistic and sexily unrealistic varieties.

But while the first thing most people associate with the event is toys, if your model is made of metal instead of plastic or urethane, and it’s self-propelled to boot, you’ve crossed the line of three-dimensional art and moved into straight-up engineering. Of course, Wonder Festival’s exhibitors aren’t going to stray too far from their fanciful roots, so what do you get when you combine technology with science fiction? You get this amazing giant robot, which is so easy to pilot that attendees could test drive it.

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So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

So like us – Monkey takes dip in hot spring, brings iPhone

Along with Mt. Fuji and the Shibuya scramble intersection, a snapshot of a woman chatting on a cell phone while dressed in a kimono is one of the must-have photos from any extensive stay in Japan. That seamless blending of the traditional and high-tech is a perfect encapsulation of just what makes Japan such a compelling society.

Hmm, you know what? We forgot to include a picture of a monkey in a hot spring on our photography checklist. That’s another one of those “Only in Japan” scenes, right? But what if you’re running short on time? Is there any way to multitask and combine our subjects?

Sure there is, with this picture of a primate taking a dip in a hot spring with his very own smartphone.

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Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Chinese company to launch $50 headphones that don’t play music

Back in the early heyday of the iPod, its distinctive white in-ear headphones were blamed for a sharp rise in street robbery in London because they identified the wearer as having a fancy music player valuable enough to be worth stealing. If the newest product released by Shanghai-based company King Jim takes off, though, the next zombie-like commuter you see wearing headphones might not be able to listen to any music at all thanks to Digital Earplugs (Dijitaru Mimisen in Japanese). The new device looks just like regular white headphones, but they’re not for playing your favourite tunes. Quite the opposite, in fact.

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Still don’t want a smartphone? Japanese women might want you

Still don’t want a smartphone? Japanese women might want you

Despite my work address being “The Internet,” my personal use cell phone actually isn’t a smartphone. Maybe it’s a result of spending several hours a day looking at websites, but to me there’s still just something that feels right about a compact phone that folds shut with an oddly satisfying snap, even if the sound provokes a Pavlovian response of laughter from any technophiles in earshot.

But like skinny ties and 8-bit video game graphics, it seems like flip phones aren’t quite ready to fade away entirely. As a matter of fact, busting out an old school flip phone in Japan just might make a man more attractive to women.

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Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

It’s kind of surprising that even with all of the high tech gadgetry you can find in Japan, most people still make a trip to a video rental store when they feel like watching a movie at home. However, online video streaming services such as Hulu have entered the market, and are finally starting to make some headway in changing how viewers get their entertainment fix.

One well-known fact about business in Japan is that in order to succeed in the country, you’ve got to be able to supply excellent customer service, which is just what one of our reporters got from Hulu Japan in this true story.

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“What’s wrong with her eyes!?” Say hello to the dentist’s doll from the (past, present) future

“What’s wrong with her eyes!?” Say hello to the dentist’s doll from the (past, present) future

Yesterday, we ran an article telling the story of a dentist in Japan who was arrested for “massaging” a female patient’s chest while claiming that doing so would help fix her misaligned teeth. In it, we included a photo of what appeared to be a young woman in a dentist’s chair with her mouth wide open.

We received plenty of comments on Facebook and Twitter about the news story itself, but many people also took a profound interest in the model in the photo, some feeling quite uneasy about the way she looked yet not knowing why, asking, “What’s wrong with her eyes!?”

The answer to that question is simple, but also kind of creepy: the woman in the photo is an ultra-lifelike doll used in dentistry.

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Apple cosplayer beats the rush, lines up for iPhone 6 seven months early

Apple cosplayer beats the rush, lines up for iPhone 6 seven months early

It’s been less than six months since the iPhone 5S went on sale here in Japan, but already Apple devotees are chomping at the bit to get their hands on an even newer model. One such would-be early adopted is blogger Yoppy, who’s still feeling the pain from failing in his quest to be the first person in Japan with an iPhone 5.

Not wanting to let greatness slip between his grasp two times in a row, Yoppy decided that this time he was going to line up early for the release of the upcoming iPhone 6. How early? Seven months ought to do it.

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Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

Japanese parents react to the technological prowess of their digital-native kids

One day when I was a pre-kindergarten kid, some relatives were visiting our house. At one point the grownups’ conversation turned to something outside my realms of interest, which at the time consisted of giant robots and dragons, exclusively. I grabbed a video cassette and stuck it into the VCR (probably to watch cartoons about giant dragon-shaped robots).

My aunt saw this and expressed her surprise that I could do it all by myself, but to me, on the difficulty scale it ranked somewhere below that pesky toilet thing my parents kept recommending I learn how to use. My aunt saw me mastering a new, cutting-edge form of technology, but to me, I was just hitting some buttons to start the cartoon I wanted to see.

This sort of thing happens every day, and I’m not talking about me amazing someone with my mental capacity (that only happens about once every 12 months – can’t wait for April!). The wondrous gadgets that change the way adults work, play, and live are just ordinary tools in the eyes of their kids, no more awe-inspiring or intimidating than a refrigerator or pair of scissors. Recently, Twitter users in Japan shared the moments when they realized their children were digital natives, and couldn’t imagine life without the high-tech conveniences their parents will never take for granted.

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About time! Osaka embraces free city-wide Wi-Fi

About time! Osaka embraces free city-wide Wi-Fi

Despite its image as a sleek, technologically advanced society, Japan really sucks when it comes to free wi-fi hotspots. In fact, when the Japan Tourism Agency surveyed tourists about difficulties traveling in the country, a lack of free Internet access was far and away the number one answer.

One major city has finally taken note and begun offering better connectivity for visitors. Osaka has just announced the launch of Osaka Free Wi-fi, a program that brings free wi-fi to locations throughout the city, as part of its effort to position itself as an international gateway to rival Tokyo.

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Our anime dreams come true as we operate a robot suit from Appleseed

Our anime dreams come true as we operate a robot suit from Appleseed

For years, science fiction movies have been teasing us with visions of high-tech wonders that remain frustratingly just out of reach. Where are our flying cars? Shouldn’t we at least have those hovering skateboards by now? How is it we can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t perfected an automated kitchen that can read our thoughts and cook what we want for dinner?

But today, the waiting ends for one of our technology-based dreams, as we operate a powered robot suit from anime and manga hit Appleseed.

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Special photo booths let you pose with sumo wrestlers without having to strap on a loincloth

Special photo booths let you pose with sumo wrestlers without having to strap on a loincloth

Should your visit to Tokyo coincide with a sumo tournament being held in the city, you really owe it to yourself to see the sport in person. Tickets are reasonably priced, the matches are fast-paced and showcase a surprisingly large variety of techniques (many similar to those of offensive linemen in football), and there’s really no way to properly convey the amazing controlled ferocity through a television screen. Best of all, the arena is compact enough that even the cheap seats provide a good view of the action.

And in case you need an added incentive, the venue is now home to two special sticker picture booths, where a little digital photo manipulation allows you to take a snapshot with your favorite sumo wrestler.

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Your iPhone is embarrassingly bad at simple math

Your iPhone is embarrassingly bad at simple math

The Cult of Apple is so smug about the many features and perks of the iPhone that it becomes a test of will for us Android users not to snatch any iPhone we see out of the hands of its user and throw it overhand into the nearest wall.

But now we may have a new weapon in the war on Apple: basic arithmetic. Seedy Japanese Internet geek forum 2chan has apparently proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that, when it comes to the calculator function, Apple’s smartphone is as dumb as that kid in your elementary school class that ate glue all day.

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How cute does a girl have to be before she’s forgiven for using a stolen iPhone? This cute

How cute does a girl have to be before she’s forgiven for using a stolen iPhone? This cute

Not so long ago, if you were travelling overseas and someone swiped your bag or camera, you pretty much had until you left the country to crack the caper. Unless you happened to be carrying a cargo of priceless gems in your tote bag, the local authorities weren’t going to coordinate an international search and recovery operation with you once you’re back in your home country.

Things are different now, when so many of the gadgets we take with us on vacation are linked to cloud storage services and social media accounts. Such was the case of one Japanese traveler who goes by the Twitter screen name Matsumoto Hiroki. Matsumoto, who lost his iPhone on a trip to Bangkok, was able to track down the person using it through iCloud, which is when his story got really interesting.

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Thank god: New app rewards prayer with free Wi-Fi

Thank god: New app rewards prayer with free Wi-Fi

There’s already something pretty devotional about how often people check their smartphones, so why not take the next step to full-fledged worship? You never know what the gods of gadgetry might grant you. If you are using the new app called Internet Shrine, a prayer will get you free Wi-Fi.

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Create 8-bit melodies by turning your old Nintendo cartridges into harmonicas 【Video】

Create 8-bit melodies by turning your old Nintendo cartridges into harmonicas 【Video】

Like many people who started playing video games in the 1980s, when titles were still put on cartridges, I often had to deal with faulty connections when playing with my Nintendo Entertainment System. And while every video game shop would sell you a fancy cleaning kit with solvents and swabs for 15 bucks and Nintendo would advise against doing so, any kid knew the best way to clean out dusty connection ports was to simply blow into the cartridge.

Recently, I heard the sobering theory that blowing into the cartridge didn’t really accomplish anything, and that simply reinserting it into the system is what dislodged the connection-blocking dirt. But with so many hours of my youth spent forcing air into 8-bit game packs, I can’t bring myself to accept that it was all meaningless. Surely, there must be something that can be accomplished by caressing Nintendo classics with a puff of breath?

It turns out there is, as with a little bit of engineering you can turn a classic game cartridge into a harmonica, complete with old school video game sounds.

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Japan’s rarest cars, from exotic sports coupes to Toyota’s answer to the Hummer

Japan’s rarest cars, from exotic sports coupes to Toyota’s answer to the Hummer

For decades, the automobile industry has been one of the driving forces behind the Japanese economy. But for every Camry, Civic, or Miata that went on to international success, Japan’s carmakers have produced a model that came and went so quickly that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s even seen one on the street, let alone actually driven one.

Today, we present a field guide to Japan’s rarest, most frequently forgotten rides.

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Mind-blowing customized PC impossible to use, beautiful to behold

Mind-blowing customized PC impossible to use, beautiful to behold

In modding communities of all kinds, there has always been the age-old debate of whether form or function carries more importance. There are plenty of car enthusiasts, for example, who are happy to mod their ride with dozens of cosmetic upgrades that do nothing for performance.

PC modder and artist Hirohito Ikeuchi is happy, apparently, to ignore function altogether, as this steampunk military-themed customized PC proves. The attention to detail in the modded PC is astounding, with life-like figures in fighting poses among steampunk mechs, tanks and even palm trees.

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Researchers at Keio University working towards a future where we may all use the “Force”

Researchers at Keio University working towards a future where we may all use the “Force”

On 20 December a research team led by Professor Kohei Onishi unveiled their Force Transceiver technology. This is technology that can remotely transmit physical forces and resistances two-ways in real time.

Prof. Onishi hopes that this technology can be used in robotics such as carrying out precise work in environments too hazardous for humans. Not only that, work that would require direct, personal contact such as physical therapy could be done anywhere in the world with an almost identical level of quality.

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