technology

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

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

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

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!)

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

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

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”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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】

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

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

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

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

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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