technology

Japan’s futuristic underground bicycle parking vaults

Japan’s futuristic underground bicycle parking vaults

Culture Japan’s Danny Choo gives us an inside look at one of Shinagawa’s automated bicycle vaults, proving once and for all that they are not operated by tiny elves working under illegal labour conditions.

Our favourite part is when the official explains that the vaults keep bikes safe from “the weather and pranksters.” Damn those pranksters, stealing our bikes! Not funny this time, you guys.

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Want that new Mac Pro now? Amazon Japan currently offering the next best thing!

Want that new Mac Pro now? Amazon Japan currently offering the next best thing!

Calling all MacHeads! Can’t wait to get your hands on that ever-so-sexy Mac Pro introduced at the WWDC a few days ago? Not to worry, Amazon Japan has you covered, almost. Check out the New TUBELOR (black) from ideaco which can be yours for a mere 3,465 yen (about US$36). Though it doesn’t come with dual GPUs, PCI Express-based flash storage or high-performance Thunderbolt 2, with a little work on your part, this piece of just-as-sexy office hardware could have your co-workers drooling with envy, and, bump you to the top of your office’s cool colleague rankings.

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Vampire smartphones! ‘Resqcable’ renders your phone undead

Vampire smartphones! ‘Resqcable’ renders your phone undead

As smartphones have become more popular and advanced, their battery lives have grown shorter and shorter and shorter.

As someone who uses a smartphone so much it’s probably causing me physical harm, I find mine needs charging sometimes twice a day. But when you’re out and about, it’s often hard to get enough time to sit down and plug it your phone in. And what if your external battery pack just died, but you desperately need to upload a photo of your lunch to Facebook? What happens then!?

Well, you could whip out your handy Resqcable power leacher!

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Still have any mix tapes lying about? Go digital with this cheap converter from Sanwa Direct

Still have any mix tapes lying about? Go digital with this cheap converter from Sanwa Direct

Remember making all those mixed-tapes after the Walkman burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 80s (for those of you who grew up with all things digital, ask your dad)? Do you have any of them left? Perhaps there are a few stuffed away at the bottom of the sock drawer? If you still have all or part of that collection, Sanwa Direct can help. Their new 400-MEDI002 cassette to MP3 converter makes changing those old analog compilations to digital format cheap and easy.

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China turns to tech to curtail cheating on tests, employs fingerprint scanners and metal detectors nationwide

China turns to tech to curtail cheating on tests, employs fingerprint scanners and metal detectors nationwide

In China this year, 7 June was the day prospective tertiary education hopefuls sat down to take the national university entrance examination. It’s a high stakes affair that has a great impact on each young person’s future.

Given the pressure these students and their family face there’s no question some will resort to cheating to get through. This year alone 9,120,000 people will take the exam. Considering those numbers, even if the cheating rate is only 0.1 percent, there is still a serious problem.

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Showa Era newspaper’s drawings of future Tokyo scarily accurate, hilariously off base

Showa Era newspaper’s drawings of future Tokyo scarily accurate, hilariously off base

These photos, which surfaced recently on a Vipper forum, show a Showa Era newspaper’s predictions of what Tokyo would look like in their future. If Mark Twain can foresee the Internet nearly a hundred years in advance, surely a Showa Era newspaper can get a few predictions right? Let’s take a look:

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NTT showcases technology which can “correct” Japanese people’s English pronunciation

NTT showcases technology which can “correct” Japanese people’s English pronunciation

Depending on the second language you’re trying to master, pronunciation is arguably the hardest aspect to conquer. The Japanese and English languages are no exception. Japanese, with its highly syllabic alphabet, often has a hard time accommodating the often chaotic nature of natural English pronunciation.

While a native English speaker’s tongue might stumble when trying to spit out makudonarudo (McDonald) smoothly the first few times our language allows us to pick it up with a little practice. Japanese English speakers have far more adversity trying to understand all the diminished sounds of a native English speaker casually uttering the name of the famous hamburger chain.

With that, NTT has revealed technology it’s working on that may one day automatically correct a Japanese person’s English pronunciation by editing the speed and rhythm while keeping the original speaker’s voice intact.

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Rogue Roomba escapes captivity, streets near Kanda station now sparkly clean

Rogue Roomba escapes captivity, streets near Kanda station now sparkly clean

We’re not sure if the singularity has finally happened or if this Roomba vacuum cleaner’s owners are just particularly careless. Regardless, it appears the Roomba, sick of being trapped in the same dull house like an animal in a zoo, triumphantly escaped the confines of the home and made a mad 3-mph dash for freedom.

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Facebook users in Japan losing interest and heading for the exits

Facebook users in Japan losing interest and heading for the exits

With over a billion registered users worldwide, Facebook is the king of online social networking services. In Japan, however, there are signs that its dominance is starting to crumble.

Facebook launched a Japanese version of its website in 2008. Initially, the platform experienced sluggish user growth as it struggled to compete with already established Japanese SNS sites produced by the likes of mixi, Mobage, and GREE. However, after well-known companies in Japan began to use Facebook as a marketing tool, it caught on with the general public and by the end of 2012 had 17.12 million users.

A mere five months later, however, that number has dropped to 13.78 million, a 19.5 percent drop in less than half a year.

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Sony Computer Science Labs developing Legos with artificial intelligence

Sony Computer Science Labs developing Legos with artificial intelligence

With kids wanting to get their hands on tablets and smartphones rather than tops and jack-in-the-boxes, traditional toy makers are beginning to feel the heat. Although, it’s hard to imagine a perennial favorite like Lego go under, they aren’t taking any chances as indicated by a display at Sony Computer Science Labs in Tokyo during a recent open house.

The building block maker is partnering with the tech giant to implant some video game magic such as AI and DualShock control into their timeless colored cubes.  But that’s not all. Sony Computer Science Labs are cooking up some wild stuff for the young and young at heart.

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400-year-old Kyoto temple shows its 21st century attitude by going digital

400-year-old Kyoto temple shows its 21st century attitude by going digital

Founded at the opening of the 17th century, Kyoto’s Nishi Honganji Temple is one of the city’s most prestigious Buddhist institutions. As you might expect, it has some decidedly old-school touches, such as the length of rope woven out of strands of hair donated by female believers which was used to haul building materials for the structure.

But Nishi Honganji is no historical relic. As one of the most important temples in the widely-practiced True Pure Land School sect of Buddhism, large numbers of faithful look to the temple for religious guidance. To meet their needs, the temple has come up with a modern idea that belies its 400 years of history.

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Japanese musings on odd construction equipment — Art imitating life or vice-versa?

Japanese musings on odd construction equipment — Art imitating life or vice-versa?

For those who work in factories or on construction sites the equipment used might not be too awe-inspiring. However, when laymen lay their eyes on these huge hulks of machinery they can look confusing or downright terrifying.

Like looking at clouds and constellations, when people see something unusual with they can’t help but relate it to something more familiar. This is just what happened when a group of Japanese Twitter users shared their experiences with unknown machines and what it reminded them of.

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Honda to lend out more ASIMO-based walking belts for fine tuning in Japan

Honda to lend out more ASIMO-based walking belts for fine tuning in Japan

It’s been a few years since Honda first announced the ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative MObility) robot and its associated promises of a better cybernetic tomorrow. But now, the company seems to be doing some further beta testing for its Stride Management Assist technology which will assist in the rehabilitation of people with movement disabilities.

On 28 May, Honda announced it would be lending out 100 units free of charge to hospitals across Japan in order to monitor their performance and fine tune these robotic power walking belts.

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Bedhead Buster is becoming a hit with young Japanese males

Bedhead Buster is becoming a hit with young Japanese males

Although bedhead is something of a scourge around the globe, the young males of Japan are particularly afflicted. In a culture where the morning shower is almost unanimously ignored in favor of evening baths, people with short hair especially are at the mercy of their pillows all night long.

However, one young engineer from America, Max Valverde may have developed a cure that the whole nation can use.  Marketed as Bedhead Buster (Neguse Basuta) in Japan this shower-cap looking invention is fast becoming a hit with the teenagers for being able to easily and effective rid them of uncontrollable hair.

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Automated Dragon Quest playing computer levels your character up while you pay attention to your partner for once

Automated Dragon Quest playing computer levels your character up while you pay attention to your partner for once

If there’s one thing Massively Multiplayer Online RPGS (MMOs) are known for, other than their marriage-destroying addictive qualities and almost cult-like fan communities, it’s the absolutely mind-numbing repetition of doing the same quests and activities over and over again to level up your character.

Realizing computers are pretty good at that whole mindless repetition thing while humans generally dislike it, one entrepreneurial Japanese geek has figured out a way to jury-rig PCs that will perform a leveling task for you over and over again and is offering them for sale on bidding site Yahoo! Auctions right now.

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Put the power to control your presentations on the back of your finger with Kokuyoseki

Put the power to control your presentations on the back of your finger with Kokuyoseki

Japanese office supply company Kokuyo S&T says that obsidian is believed to be a powerful stone which can protect against evil and calmy improve one’s focus and endurance.

This is why they named their newest device with the Japanese word for obsidian, Kokuyoseki. This little gadget slides onto your finger like a regular ring and lets you smoothly navigate your presentations without having to touch your computer.

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Is Sony using Microsoft as its negative publicity guinea pig?

Is Sony using Microsoft as its negative publicity guinea pig?

While Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox One console is being received positively by general tech sites for its kitchen sink philosophy to TV-based entertainment, the gaming public seems less than enthused, fearing the emphasis on TV programming and other bells and whistles means gaming will take a backseat and wary of always-on DRM rumors and the like. But is this all working out nicely for competitor Sony, who may be actively learning from Microsoft’s mistakes while planning its next move?

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Let there be light! This clever sheet of paper is actually a handy torch

Let there be light! This clever sheet of paper is actually a handy torch

To the untrained eye, this little device created by designer Kazuhiro Yamanaka appears to be a regular piece of paper. Well, almost. When rolled into a cylindrical tube, however, two cleverly hidden switches power up an attached LED and voila, instant illumination.
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Shanghai’s taxis boast more tech than a home office

Shanghai’s taxis boast more tech than a home office

When I climb into the back of a taxi, I expect the driver to have some basic idea of how to get to any place I want to go, provided it’s not someone’s personal residence or a really obscure location. So, to see a driver dive for their maps or GPS can be a bit off-putting. It’s not nice to feel as though your driver isn’t sure of where they’re going.

In Shanghai, however, map technology is being implemented at a whole new level, operating with extreme efficiency and convenience. It’s quite literally the next generation of high tech taxis. Read More

Lifelike 3D dolls in Japan are one part frightening, two parts awesome

Lifelike 3D dolls in Japan are one part frightening, two parts awesome

Making oneself into a fully posable action figure was once a mere pipe dream for those of us who weren’t movie stars, rock stars or the combination of both that is Mr. Sato. But now with technology and some craftsmanship anyone can immortalize themselves in the medium of dolls… until they come to life in the middle of the night and kill you.

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