technology

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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Cat selfies are taking over the internet and they’re too funny to ignore!【Photos】

Cat selfies are taking over the internet and they’re too funny to ignore!【Photos】

Let’s be honest, if selfies (self-portrait photographs) were a crime, most, if not all of us would be found guilty. With a million and one smart phone applications created to satisfy our narcissistic photography habits, catering to the needs of every possible user group; from hardcore selfie maniacs to tech-newbies, even preschool kids are selfie experts these days.

If you are one of the rare few who have yet to jump on to the selfie bandwagon, get this. Even cats are taking selfies, and they’re surprisingly good at it! Not only do they look cute and fuzzy as always, they make some of the most hilarious expressions too!

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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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